Clarke (born 1929) lived in Simon's Town until the Group Areas Act moved him to Ocean View where he has lived and worked since the late 1970s. He is best known for his paintings and prints of the daily life of Cape communities, yet in the last three decades he has also quietly produced handcrafted concertina books. Just Paper and Glue presents this rarely exhibited aspect of Clarke's life-long practice. Using paint, pencil and scraps found in his post, these abstract collages are playful and whimsical. Clarke says of his books:
You can't fold up a Monet or a Cezanne or any precious work of art. But with one like this, you can fold it up and carry it in a little box. You can sit next to somebody in a waiting room and say: 'I've got something to show you', and lift it out of its box.
The idea is just to have fun - like picture books for children, which take them into another world. These are meant to act in the same way. It's just the artist in [his] old age indulging in fun and games.
While Clarke may emphasise the lightness and playfulness of these objects, they add depth to his artistic oeuvre. Like the Fanfare series, first exhibited in 2003, Clarke's books find their place in the long modernist tradition of the collage. Clarke also embraces the tradition of the artist's book, dating back hundreds of years and written about as a distinct artistic genre since the 1970s. Whereas his paintings might invite comparisons to Romare Bearden and Diego Rivera, the books in this exhibition suggest that awareness of Kurt Schwitters and Fluxus are equally significant to a full understanding of Clarke's life and work.
Clarke has only recently seen wide recognition of his work with a South African retrospective, Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke, at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town and the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg (2011-12), accompanied by a major publication; and Wind Blowing on the Cape Flats at the Institute of International Visual Art (Iniva) in London (2013).
Source: Michael Stevenson Fine Art
To visit the exhibition website: click here.