An exhibition of works by Brian Clarke, who is widely regarded to be the most important artist working in stained glass today, will go on view at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. A Great Light, presented by HENI, celebrates Clarke’s 70th year with an extraordinary collection of works from 2002 to the present day.
This spectacular new installation of the artist’s glass shows how flexible and wide-ranging the medium can truly be. His latest work is Ardath, a 42m² wall of mouth-blown glass, bathing the gallery in light and colour, as flowering meadow motifs build up a rich and dense tapestry in etched glass.
Another new work, Stroud Ossuary, depicts hundreds of skulls towering some 10 metres above the visitors, with each graphically etched skull carefully placed on traditional leadlines. Other works are on a more intimate scale. His recent Kabinettscheiben are based upon his latest series of collages and drawings.
In earlier works by Clarke, visitors can meander through a gallery filled with vibrantly coloured folding screens, layering a multitude of patterns and colours. In contrast, large poignant leadworks create a contemplative environment, filled with reflection and mourning.
Large battleships and beachboys from 2002 show Clarke’s continued experimentation with method and process. Triple-layered sheets of dot-matrix glass build up the translucent and transparent image of the battleship as if in a distant haze. The same process was employed on a monumental scale with architects Norman Foster and Partners at their Al Faisaliah Centre, Riyadh.
Across his five decades-long career, Clarke has consistently pushed the boundaries of stained glass as a medium, both in terms of technology and its visual potential. Clarke’s vision for stained glass is fundamentally architectural, his impactful works the result of a dedicated respect for the buildings and surrounding contexts of his work. His reputation both as a painter and as an architectonic artist is based on major installation projects all over the world, as well as smaller scale, autonomous works and international exhibitions of paintings and drawings.
Brian Clarke, A Great Light, from 9th June, Newport Street Gallery
About the artist
Brian Clarke Hon?FRIBA FRSA CF (born 2 July 1953) is a British painter, architectural artist and printmaker, known for his large-scale stained glass and mosaic projects, symbolist paintings, set designs, and collaborations with major figures in Modern and contemporary architecture.
Born to a working-class family in the north of England, and a full-time art student on scholarship by age 13, Clarke came to prominence in the late 1970s as a painter and figure of the Punk movement and designer of stained glass. By the early 1980s he had become a major figure in international contemporary art, the subject of several television documentaries and a café society regular. He is known for his architectonic art, prolific output in various media, friendships with key cultural figures, and polemical lectures and interviews.
His practice in architectural and autonomous stained glass, often on a monumental scale, has led to successive innovation and invention in the development of the medium. This includes the creation of stained glass without lead and the subsequent pioneering of a ‘dramatically enhanced Pointillism’ in glass, as well as the creation of sculptural stained glass works, analogous to collage, made primarily or entirely of lead. The latter two advances are described as having taken stained glass as an art form to its zero-point in each direction: absolute transparency and complete opacity.