The Chelsea Window

Capital City Academy, Brent, London


First conceived of for the Swan and Edgar Building in London, the fabrication of this work was commissioned by Sir Frank Lowe for his home in Glebe Place, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's former residence, as part of an interior scheme of artworks in 1986. In 1993, it was used in Brian's sets for the landmark staging of the Rudolf Nureyev/AIDS tribute ballet choreographed by former dancer Wayne Eagling for the Dutch National Ballet, and then formed part of Clarke's 1994 interior scheme for the Grace Building, New York. Later, the work was installed into the Norman Foster-designed Capital City Academy, of which both Brian and Lowe are governors, in London. The modular gridded system of the window allows for a horizontal configuration, a separate composition that was used in the work's display at the Sezon Museum of Modern Art and Yao Seibu Hall, Osaka.

"The potent reds of the organic shapes in The Chelsea Window recall Cezanne’s experience of looking at the red interior of a slipper painted by Eugene Delacroix, ‘entering the eye like a glass of wine down the throat’. Cezanne’s phrase captures the physical operation of colour on the body of the viewer, as well as the eye, the particular ‘push and pull of spatially active colour’ noted in Clarke’s work. The semi-transparent has a special spatial potency. Cezanne links the powerful effect of Delacroix’s colour to its glazed, liquid quality; Clarke’s famously repetitive use of emblematic hues, red, green, blue, yellow (again owing something to heraldry) maximise this effect. Their prismatic nature is enhanced by our more physical experience of them emitting light rather than reflecting it. Chelsea Window draws on possibilities available to painters and those that are not. Clarke believes the juxtaposition of the opaque lead further intensifies the colour ‘by a factor of three to four times.’ The transparent red forms are accompanied by shapes in a nearly identical hue but a different, opaque glass material that unexpectedly punches back.

[In Clarke's work] at no point is a motif perfectly repeated; always there is some positional, aesthetic or associational alteration. The Chelsea Window is an early experiment. Organic shapes dance through and differentiate succeeding segments of a black/blue/green grid. Each of these is itself enlivened by modifications in the tonal and directional nuances and light transmitting properties of the silver stain. Fired at different temperatures, it changes from yellow to a powerful red. The inconsistencies of the blue green mouth-blown glass add further modifications. When glass is illuminated by ‘kinetic’ effects of light that alter with weather, season or time, another layer of variation is added – ‘the clouds move, traffic or people pass by behind it.’" Carol Jacobi, Curator of British Art at Tate Britain, in her essay ‘Weissnichtwo: Brian Clarke and the Global Sublime’, 2011.