The Art of Light

17th June 2018 to 14th October 2018

Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia

The travelling exhibition The Art of Light was first staged as an intervention into the permanent collection of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in 2018.

"In the exhibition space, Clarke’s panels shimmer and glow in the sunlight, which shines in through floor-to-ceiling windows. The colours dance off a striding Giacometti and mingle with pieces from Mesopotamia, sculptures by Henry Moore and a Cycladic vase from 2700BC. Together [...] they 'make a nonsense' of any division of painting from sculpture, arts from crafts, east from west." – the Financial Times, 2018.

"Artist Brian Clarke can remember when the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts was merely a sketch on the back of a napkin. The napkin belonged to architect Norman Foster, and the sketch utilised a unique approach - integrating building with landscape - using the style of structural expressionism. The centre is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, situated on the edge of the University of East Anglia’s campus - housing the collection of Lord and Lady Sainsbury, gifted to the university in 1973.

Considering this integration, it would seem fitting that the ‘finally-celebrated’ artist should take advantage of the centre’s grand windows, which not only form a relationship between the art and the external green vistas, but also allow works to be seen in natural light - expressing the building’s environmental integration - which is currently illuminating the installation of over 30 works from the artist’s oeuvre. The artist has installed some 30 freestanding stained glass screens - forming the centrepiece of Clarke’s ambitious exhibition at the Sainsbury Centre - using the backdrop of its monumental windows. The collection forms a maze-like installation piece created out of individual works produced over the last three years.

Clarke paints with light, reflecting poetic and emotional states via a deft use of colour and the juxtaposition of material and environment. The works become ‘projectors’ of light - with colours slowly stretching out across the exhibition space - as the sun sets on the university campus. Colour interacts and transforms when illuminated by natural moving light - or remains mute and cold via the illumination of still synthetic light. Yet Clarke’s practice has been somewhat misconstrued, the artist’s material is not glass; the glass is in fact the artist’s lens. Clarke’s ‘material’ is light itself.

Paul Black, This is Tomorrow contemporary art magazine.