Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Weeds Can Also Be Beautiful and Oupa en Ouma se Huis.

You can view a you-tube video clip of an interview, posted by the Art Times, with Peter Clarke at the opening of A Hot And Quiet Evening. Click on the link below to view.


Today we will be exploring the world of minutiae in which Peter Clarke finds inspiration. We will also be looking at how this relates to his interest in the day-to-day life of human beings.

Our first image is tiny itself, not more than a few centimetres across, a miniature linocut, hand coloured with water colour, entitled, Weeds Can Also Be Beautiful (undated). It is a charming little image in which the boldness of linocut (especially emphasised on such a small scale) is used to create a sweetly simple representation of a few odd little flowers, twigs and leaves. It immediately struck me as being a little metaphorical – after all most of Clarke’s work celebrates the wildflowers of humanity rather than the hothouse blooms.

The celebration of the quiet and the small has a depth and dignity which we often overlook in favour of the bold, dramatic and revolutionary. In this respect Peter Clarke’s work reminds of Zen and Taoist art and seems to embody these philosophies. The rhythmic spirit of natures in particular is important in Taoist art and we see this larger-than-human force entering individual lives in many of Clarke’s works, such as in the previously discussed Doing What We Have To Do, We Get On With Our Lives in which the stormy sky and flight of the birds are echoed by the crippled man in the centre of the village.

In fact the majority of Clarke’s works depicting human figures show them outside interacting with, or simply existing in, some element of the natural world. This particularly emphasises the smallness of these humans and their little lived as they are placed against the powerful and ancient forces of nature. In Weeds Can Also Be Beautiful we see how nature’s omnipresence also makes use of the very small.

The second image is entitled By Oupa en Ouma se Huis (2006). Here we see an old couple next to their man-made dwelling but, not surprisingly, they are sitting outside in the fresh air. When a human figure is shown indoors or in a cityscape it becomes larger than life – a godlike inhabitant of a world self-created and controlled. When we see people existing in nature we are given a more holistic perspective – one in which people are small and the universe is big.
This however does in no way make the small unimportant or unworthy of interest. The title of this piece means Next To Grandpa and Grandma’s House. A deep and loving interest is being shown in the life of an individual and a family, the smallest and second smallest unit of humanity. There is such a poignant beauty in this approach. It hints at a truth of being that is simpler and more profound than any of the philosophies in which humanity is glorified or damned, Underneath all existential angst or ecstatic ambition, we are all rather little creatures, merely parts of a very big world and this is the most beautiful, noble and joyful truth of all.

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