A Great Light: Brian Clarke in Conversation with Damien Hirst
“When it dawns on you that you are being truthful to who you are…you realise that the entire world is a reservoir from which you can dip.” Brian Clarke Two of Britain’s most prominent contemporary artists, Brian Clarke and Damien Hirst, visit Clarke’s 2023 exhibition A Great Light. Taking place among the monumental works in stained glass and lead displayed in Newport Street Gallery, the pair discuss Clarke’s technological innovations, his approach to the medium and his inspirations in a lively and personal interview that leads to an insightful conversation, artist to artist, about the nature of image-making and the place of art in the contemporary time.
Brian Clarke, painter and architectural artist, was born in Oldham, Lancashire, in 1953, and is the most celebrated stained glass artist in the world today.
A lifelong exponent of the integration of art and architecture, 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 practice in architectural and autonomous stained glass, often on a monumental scale, has led to successive innovation and invention in the fabrication of the medium and, through the production of leadless stained glass and the creation of sculptural stained glass works made primarily or wholly of lead, he has radically stretched the boundaries of what the medium can do and express.
Major works include the Pyramid of Peace, Kazakhstan; Victoria Quarter Leeds, the largest stained glass roof in Europe; the Hôtel du département des Bouches-du-Rhône (Le Grand Bleu), Marseilles; the Royal Mosque of King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh; the 13th century Cistercian Abbaye de la Fille-Dieu, Romont; Buxton Thermal Baths' Cavendish Arcade; the Al Faisaliyah Center, Riyadh; Pfizer World Headquarters, Manhattan; Beaverbrook Coach House and Spa at Cherkeley Court; the Stamford Cone, Connecticut; and NorteShopping, Rio de Janeiro. Stage sets and designs for theatre include designs for two productions of Wayne Eagling's Rudolf Nureyev-tribute 'The Ruins of Time', with the Dutch National Ballet; Paul McCartney's World Tour (1989-90) and The New World Tour (1993); and a production of the Robert Ward opera 'The Crucible', directed by Hugh Hudson.
Clarke is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects; Fellow, Trustee, and Council member of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust; former Visiting Professor of Architectural Art at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London; former trustee and Chairman of the Architecture Foundation; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; Honorary Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass; Hon. Doctor of Law, University of Huddersfield; Doctor of Humane Letters, Virginia Theological Seminary; former member of the Design Review Committee for the Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE); Governor of the Capital City Academy Trust; Sole Executor and Chairman of the Estate of Francis Bacon; Trustee and Chairman of the Zaha Hadid Foundation.
Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds. He studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths college from 1986 to 1989, and whilst in his second year, he conceived and curated the group exhibition, 'Freeze'. The show is commonly acknowledged to have been the launching point not only for Hirst, but for a generation of British artists.
Since the late 1980s, Hirst has used a varied practice of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to explore the complex relationships between art, beauty, religion, science, life and death. Through work that includes the iconic shark in formaldehyde, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) and For the Love of God (2007), a platinum cast of a skull set with 8,601 flawless pavé-set diamonds, he investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the uncertainties at the heart of human experience. In April 2017, he presented his most complex project to date, 'Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable', across two museum spaces in Venice. Hirst lives and works in London and Gloucester.
Since 1987, over 90 solo Damien Hirst exhibitions have taken place worldwide, and he has been included in over 300 group shows. In 2012, Tate Modern, London presented a major retrospective survey of Hirst's work in conjunction with the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Hirst's other solo exhibitions include Qatar Museums Authority, ALRIWAQ Doha (2013-2014); Palazzo Vecchio, Florence (2010); Oceanographic Museum, Monaco (2010); Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2008); Astrup Fearnley Museet für Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2005); Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples (2004); Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, Pinault Collection, Venice (2017), amongst others. His work features in major collections including Tate Collection; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Fondazione Prada; Astrup Fearnley Museum and the Broad Art Foundation. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995.
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