In the heart of south London's Vauxhall, Newport Street Gallery hosts an enthralling exhibition that focuses on the last 20 years of Brian Clarke's extraordinary 50-year artistic career. From June 9th to September 24th visitors can immerse themselves in the captivating world of the exhibition, 'A Great Light', which delves deep into Clarke's artistic journey.
Renowned for his monumental designs gracing cathedrals, as well as his set creations and album covers for notable figures such as Paul McCartney, Brian Clarke's artistic versatility is here on full display. Emerging from the raucous art scene of 1970s London, particularly the Punk Movement, he has aptly earned the nickname 'the rockstar of stained glass', collaborating with Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.
During the electric atmosphere of the ‘70s, Clarke's path serendipitously crossed with that of Francis Bacon. Their introduction came about through a mutual friend, John Edwards. Together with revered art dealer Robert Fraser, they formed a friendship that remained intact until Bacon's passing in 1992. Reflecting on a whimsical conversation with Bacon, Clarke fondly recalls his inquiry about the artist's potential interest in designing stained glass, to which Bacon amusingly retorted, "No – and I've never done any macrame either, dear."
The curator of the exhibition in Newport Street Gallery, Hans Ulrich Obrist, has dedicated four out of the six galleries to showcasing Clarke’s recent artwork, while the remaining two galleries feature earlier pieces. One of the newest additions to the exhibition is the 10-metre-high The Stroud Ossuary (2023), an artwork specially commissioned by Damien Hirst. These panels vividly display a total of 1300 human skulls, many of which were sketched from life and based on Hirst’s and Clarke’s own collections of human remains, as well as the ossuaries of Romney Marsh. Both artists share a fascination with this particular motif.
Clarke has also been working on a memoir that intertwines his autobiography with the rich history of stained glass spanning the past thousand years. Through this memoir, he aims to share his wealth of knowledge about this incredible medium. Despite recent health challenges, Clarke remains hopeful about the future and has ambitious plans. He states, "Some may ask, 'Do you aspire to achieve the greatness of the mediaeval artisans?' No, I strive to surpass them—I aspire to transcend even Chartres Cathedral." Clarke passionately believes that there exists tremendous untapped potential within the medium of stained glass, and he expresses great excitement about its possibilities, stating, "Never before in my entire life have I been as exhilarated about the potential of this art form as I am today."
Step into the captivating realm of 'A Great Light' at Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery, where Brian Clarke's journey through the world of stained glass unfolds.