Brian Clarke

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Brian Clarke, 2007

Brian Clarke (born 2 July 1953) is a British painter, architectural artist and printmaker, known for his large-scale stained glass and mosaic projects, polemical writings and lectures, and collaborations with major figures in contemporary architecture.





Architectural Stained Glass

'Towards a New Constructivism'
  • Punk articulated the vitriolic disapproval by the young of the sneaking complacency in music, art, politics and perhaps most important of all - the environment.
  • As punk rock was able to sweep the board clean in music, so must the board be cleared in visual art.
  • The self-inflicted isolation of the contemporary artist and the mistrust levelled against the architect are both important contributing factors in the current situation of architectural art. The painter is anxious to keep intact the historical image of artist as loner, the intense sensitive, the genius and “maestro”; while the architect, feeling the watchful eye of his client constantly over his shoulder, approaches any extra-to-budget expense, such as art, with considerable trepidation, guarding jealously any intrusion into his building by potential glory-thieves. – Clarke in the essay 'Towards a New Constructivism', from his 1979 book Architectural Stained Glass.


  • Painting is a way for me to view the world as it exists and the world as it might be.
  • When I am designing a stained glass window I am painting; when I am drawing a drawing, I am painting; when I am making the cartoon for a tapestry, I am painting; and when I am listening to music I am painting. It is the centre of everything that I do.
  • It's not that painting is the medium with which I identify the most. Painting is the medium through which I am able to identify with anything external.
  • It is through painting that I understand how to view architecture, appreciate the rhythm of a poem, draw pleasure from the structure of a well-composed sentence. And it is through painting that the complexity of music makes itself understood to me. It is through painting, in fact, that I am.
    • Clarke in 1987, in conversation with Paul Beldock, from the Hessisches Landesmuseum publication Brian Clarke: Malerei und Farbfenster 1977–1988.


  • Colour is the animator of my poetical ideal. It is the single most important device in my work, and the driving force behind its impact.
  • Art is reimbued with its genuine power and profundity in the architectural realm. Its real power lies in the cathedral, the shopping center, the hospital. Not in the studios of Soho and Chelsea or the galleries of Madison Avenue or Bond Street.
    • The New York Times, 1990.




  • Moving with frequency between the polarities of my experience is a fertile source of ideas. Somewhere between anguish and joy lies a region taut with further contradictions. If art speaks truth to power then in my view both compelling forces need to be addressed. The desolate truth carried in profundity is made even more striking when matched by the sublime energy of the decorative.
    • Clarke in 2010, from the Vitromusée Romont publication Brian Clarke: Life and Death.
  • The Spitfire and the Porsche and the battleship have something of perfection in their design. They are anonymous in their beauty, like the fleur-de-lys, and compelling, like heraldic ciphers of the 20th century.

Night Orchids

  • I used to think that I somehow existed apart from making art and thus my work itself existed outside prevailing realities, uninfluenced by circumstance. I was wrong and that's clear to me now. Biography and art intertwine, strangling and oxygenating simultaneously.
  • Black has the power to astonish. It absorbs and reflects colour stealing much from the prevailing chromatic landscape. It makes blue bluer and light lighter. There are as many variations of black as there are of green.
  • Fallen petals on the grass or scattered flowers across a field do unexpected things when you examine them – Primroses seem to  cluster  together in a shape that recalls a single flower; Bluebells become entirely anonymous in a hovering mist; Daffodils group together into crowns of thorns and barbed wire.
    • Clarke in 2016, in conversation with art critic Robert Storr, from the HENI publication Night Orchids.

The Art of Light

  • There is a world that can be seen only through stained glass. It is like no other. The medium is thought to have been at its zenith in the Middle Ages – though the medievals had the advantage of Gothic architecture to respond to. I want to surpass the Middle Ages, not equal them. Surpass them with the new and irresistible: volumetric, spatial colour, transporting post-industrial godless man to the edge of ecstasy.
    • Clarke in 2018, in conversation with Paul Greenhalgh, from the HENI publication The Art of Light.
  • My art is an art for the working class.
  • I am working class artist. I am very happy if my work pleases or engages intellectuals or professional people, but my art is an art for the mass: I want to communicate this idea of intimacy and poetic transcendence to as many people as possible, and the idea that it is confined to one social demographic is abhorrent to me.

Quotes about Brian Clarke

  • If Mondrian, with the omission of diagonals, modulation of colour and sensuality of material, moved into an increasingly life-alienated and Apollonian ideology, so Clarke explores the optical stability of forms with sensory Dionysiac temptations where here and there they give rise to menacing disturbances of order.
  • [In Clarke's work] I see a possible enlivening of the jaded purity of Constructivism, an extension of geometry into the opposite, namely the emotional and incalculable as one of the answers to the conflicts and contradictions of our time. Art can only remain effective if it does not ignore the painful depth of unresolved antinomy.
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