Sunday, December 6, 2009

I have one last Peter Clarke image to share with you, a woodcut print entitled Iris (undated). This is a particularly interesting work to discuss because it is a piece that Clarke himself considers to be very technically sound. There is also a quaint story as to its origin, which seems to demonstrate the holistic nature of Clarke’s work process. He discussed this piece at the Kalk Bay Modern in an interview with the Art Times just before the opening of A Hot and Quiet Evening.

These are his words on the piece
“It’s one of my best prints; technically it is a very good print…. It happens when you use the right kind of materials, and in this case I got a nice piece of old wood – it was actually part of a bedstead which somebody had dumped and then I rescued these pieces of wood. I got this piece of wood [gesturing to the print] and cut into it; it was like slicing through butter. And when I printed it – everything fell into place. So that is one of my favourites.”
His obvious enjoyment in telling the story highlights how the creative processes of an artist like Peter Clarke are not limited to the moment of creation. The finding of treasure in what was rubbish to another, the ‘rescuing’ of the wood – all these elements were integral to the creation of this work and it can be seen in the finished product.
The delicacy of Iris is quite different to many of Clarke’s pieces. While the speedily-carved immediacy of many of his prints is a fundamental part of their charm, the intricacy of the hatching in Iris and its gracefully formed bloom shows that its production was a time consuming labour of love.
In the same interview Clarke speaks about how much of his work, both visual and literary, is concerned with space, moods and stillness. These qualities are deeply present in this beautiful image. It is imbued with wonderfully atmospheric quality, the fine cross-hatching creating a gauzy web of lights and darks. The addition of a smoky blue and a hint of palest green create the atmosphere of rain and the white flower shines out against the moody background with a freshness that you can almost smell.
I can certainly understand why it is one of Clarkes’s favourites as it is teeming with the joy of creation and is indeed both a technical and intuitive masterpiece.
(Here is a link to the video of Peter Clarke at the Kalk Bay Modern on the Art Times page)

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