'Astragals', 2011


"What is striking about Clarke’s paintings is the looseness of his drawing. It sometimes looks reckless or ‘unthinking’, but this is deceptive: everything in his pictures is carefully composed, meticulously considered and tightly organised. The paintings that Clarke has produced for this show at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag are all constructed in the same way. Working on a dark background, he has used a white oil stick to draw a series of identical motifs – outlines of Porsches, Spitfires or fleurs-de-lis – forming a continuous strip across the entire breadth of the canvas. Under this strip, he has painted abstract planes of colour, the edges of which are entirely separate from the motifs: the paint never touches the outline. As in his stained glass windows, he is attentive to the space between the various colour planes. The dark backgrounds of his paintings are likewise reminiscent of those in his works in glass. The light-absorbing black makes the colours appear all the more vivid. Clarke’s fascination with the unique quality of outlines was roused by the large tool board at his first school. The right place for each tool was indicated by a painted silhouette of the object. An outline of that kind is impersonal and lacks the individuality of the object, but if the outline is interrupted by a scratch or slip, it will suddenly reveal a character all its own." – Kunstmuseum Den Haag on the series of paintings produced for Brian's 2011 exhibition The Quick and the Dead.