LONDON.- A Decade of Change explores a crucial period in Geoffrey Clarkes impressive oeuvre: from 1955 to 1965. This decade saw Clarkes style develop through an intense exploration of new materials, and in particular the ground-breaking use of polystyrene and cast aluminium in his work.
Geoffrey Clarkes work can be mapped by shifts in material, as he explored in turn glass, iron, bronze, aluminum, polystyrene, silver and wood throughout his career. The most fertile and significant periods of Clarkes career can be traced to these moments when a new medium was introduced to his practice and the intense exploration and engagement with material that would then follow.
A Decade of Change focuses on one such period, tracking Geoffrey Clarkes transition from working with forged iron to cast aluminium. This period of prolific experimentation with aluminium, which at the time was unchartered territory in terms of a medium for sculpture, was to yield one of Clarkes most vital and captivating bodies of work.
Clarke initially began open casting aluminium in his studio foundry, impressing an image directly into the foundry sandbed and pouring the molten aluminium to fill the mould. A number of impressive graphic reliefs were produced using this technique, and works such as Square World V (1959) are demonstrative of the pure, raw quality the material and form took on when cast in such a way. The imprint of the sand allowed for a subtlety and shading in the aluminium, but Clarke was restricted to the two-dimensionality of the process.
The introduction of expanded polystyrene to his practice had a dramatic effect on the way that Geoffrey Clarke produced his work and the objects he was able to create. A material now taken for granted, polystyrene revolutionised Clarkes practice and his casting process. It appealed to Clarke in its directness, transforming a block of polystyrene, almost instantly, into a metal sculpture. In addition, polystyrene was easy to carve, not to mention cheap, and allowed for larger works to be produced with ease and for a level of experimentation with form that his reliefs had not granted.
Full mould casting, where the carved polystyrene original would be packed in sand with runners attached, vaporizing on contact with the molten aluminium, signalled a major change in Clarkes work. Sculptures from this time, such as his Test pieces, demonstrate a new-found freedom and fullness of form, having moved away from the flat, surface qualities of earlier sculptures, to now making in the round.
Clarkes ground-breaking combination of new materials and the modernity of his sculptural forms quickly won him a number of large public commissions at Suffolk College, Coventry Cathedral and Bishop Otter College in Chichester among others and enabled him to become the most commissioned British sculptor of the mid-twentieth century. During this period his once humble studio and small-scale foundry were soon transformed by a team of assistants and the addition of a polystyrene cutting room. One of the earliest large scale works made using polystyrene, the Battersea Park sculptures, will be a highlight of the exhibition at Pangolin London.
Geoffrey Clarke is the last surviving sculptor from the group of artists who were propelled to prominence following their participation in the 1952 Venice Biennale. Coined the geometry of fear sculptors by Herbert Read, the eight artists, including Clarke, led a sculptural renaissance in Britain experimenting with materials and form in a new and radical way. A recently overlooked but intriguing sculptor, the ability of Clarkes work to reflect the sculptural zeitgeist of the 1950s is highlighted by this major exhibition. Geoffrey Clarke: A Decade of Change is a long overdue celebration of his work and practice and cements Clarkes reputation as one of Britains most revolutionary post-war sculptors.
In addition to Clarkes iron and aluminium sculpture a range of prints, silvers and stained glass pieces from the period have also been included in the exhibition.