“The nature of Brian Clarke’s practice is unusual in our current times. His pre-eminence in stained glass is a fact, but perhaps it is one that can mislead us with regard to what the totality of his practice is about. Stained glass is a major, but not his only preoccupation. In fact, his core practice is painting. But what makes Clarke so very rare as a painter, and perhaps unique after the First World War, is his intense connection to architecture. He is also vibrantly active in sculpture, ceramic and mosaic; and everything he does is ultimately intertwined with architecture. Perhaps, in some ways, his stained glass oeuvre and his ceramic and mosaic are products of the conjunction of painting and architecture within the artist’s personality, virtually from childhood.” – Paul Greenhalgh, The Art of Light.
Born in 1953 into a working-class family in Oldham, Lancashire, at the age of twelve Brian Clarke became a full-time art student, awarded a scholarship on an Arts and Crafts-inspired scheme that laid the foundation for a prolific multidisciplinary engagement with the arts and architecture. His first commissions in buildings, in his teens and early twenties, were principally for churches in the North of England, but driven by the energy of the Punk movement, his meteoric rise to international prominence from the late 70s was as a polemicist championing the integration of art and architecture, and the untapped potential of stained glass in the contemporary, secular urban environment. Clarke’s commitment to total art has developed into a Renaissance engagement with multiple media – from painting, sculpture, ceramics, mosaic, tapestry, jewellery and furniture, to sets for opera, the ballet, and stadia. Practising in secular and sacred spaces, his architectural collaborations include work with Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Arata Isozaki, Oscar Niemeyer, I. M. Pei, Future Systems and other leading figures of Modern and contemporary architecture, creating stained glass designs and art installations for hundreds of projects worldwide.
His work has been widely exhibited at leading galleries and institutions, including the Kunstmuseum Den Haag; the Robert Fraser Gallery; Gagosian; Pace Gallery; the Royal Institute of British Architects; Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt; Corning Museum of Glass, New York; and Vitromusée Romont. Clarke is represented in international public and private collections including the Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, and the Bavarian State Painting Collections. He lives and works in London.