A spectacular exhibition of watercolours Brian Clarke, who is widely regarded to be the most important artist working in stained-glass today, has gone on show at Phillips in London. Brian Clarke: Vespers opened today and will run until 10 September 2021. It is available for sale via the HENI Leviathan online platform.
The centrepiece of the exhibition are over 500 watercolours of poppies which the artist has conceived to resemble a field full of flowers. These are reminiscent of the meadows in East Sussex where in the 1980s, the artist and his close friend Linda McCartney used to throw packets of seeds into the roadside fields, and poppies sprang up in those places.
I just tried to capture that feeling that I particularly remember with Linda of all these poppies growing up out of this nothingness, out of just throwing these packets of seeds. And, what happens with watercolour, because its such a liquid medium, it reminded me very much of stained glass
..they started looking like stained glass windows to me, and I could start kind of imagining them as source material to put into stained glass and I really liked that idea.
Through each Vesper Clarke engages in experimentations with the nature of paint and liquid colour. He allows his paints to move naturally as his vivid splashes of red, dripping thin lines of green and backgrounds exploding with colour imitate the life and movement of flowers. Though visually appearing as poppies, Clarke calls his forms vespers, a term used in Christian liturgy to designate evening prayer. Often produced at night, these watercolours employ the poppy as a flexible vehicle for the intimate reflections of their maker with the flowers transforming between levels of abstraction.
Begun in 2019 in Seville, Clarke completed Vespers in 2020 in London following the first UK lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic. Through vibrant colour, painted elements like black infestation-like forms and the incorporation of collage materials like used masks and newspapers, in these later works Clarke communicates intense feelings such as fear, horror and loss.
Accompanying the exhibition is a fully illustrated, hardcover monograph by HENI Publishing, which reproduces the entire Vespers series with an introduction by the art historian Robert Storr.
As part of the collaboration between Phillips and HENI, the Vespers series will be made available in a limited duration sale on the HENI Leviathan website
. This sale will go live on the morning of Wednesday 1 September throughout the last week of the exhibition, ending on Friday 10 September.
Brian Clarke was born in Oldham, Lancashire, in 1953. Recognised as the greatest stained-glass artist in the world today, and celebrated for his work on canvas, in sculpture, ceramics, mosaic and tapestry, Clarke is a major figure in the contemporary art of the last four decades. A lifelong exponent of the integration of art and architecture, his reputation is based on installations and individual works, ranging from intimate to monumental in scale, for hundreds of projects worldwide. Practising in sacred and secular spaces, he has collaborated on projects and proposals with Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Arata Isozaki, Oscar Niemeyer, Renzo Piano, Future Systems, and other leading figures of modern and contemporary architecture.
Clarke has consistently pushed the boundaries of stained glass, both in terms of technology, and its poetic potential. His practice in architectural and autonomous stained glass has led to several innovations and inventions in the fabrication of the medium and, through the production of leadless stained glass and the creation of sculptural works made primarily of lead, he has radically stretched the limits of what stained glass can do and express.
Major projects include the Pyramid of Peace in Kazakhstan; the glazed roof of Victoria Quarter Leeds Europe's largest stained-glass work; the Royal Mosque of King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh; the Hôtel du département des Bouches-du-Rhône, Marseilles; the 13th century Cistercian Abbaye de la Fille-Dieu, Romont; the Holocaust Memorial Synagogue in Darmstadt; the Papal Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature to Great Britain; and Pfizer World Headquarters, New York. Stage sets include the designs for two productions of Wayne Eagling's Rudolf Nureyev-tribute 'The Ruins of Time, with the Dutch National Ballet; Paul McCartney's World Tour (1989-90) and New World Tour (1993); and a production of the Robert Ward Opera 'The Crucible', directed by Hugh Hudson. His work is represented in international public and private collections including the Tate, Victoria and Albert Museum, Bavarian State Paintings and the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, and has been the subject of exhibitions at international museums including the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Munich Stadtmuseum; the Centre International de Vitrail, Chartres; the Corning Museum of Glass, USA; the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt, Germany; and Vitromusée, Romont.