Museum Gallery: September 3-October 22, 2020
Athlone Clarke was born in Jamaica and immigrated to the United States in the mid-eighties. During what he calls the “early years” he made his living as a published writer, but soon realized that his heart was deeply rooted in the visual arts. As the years progressed his visual work began to stand on equal footing with his literary work; hence, he found himself at a creative crossroad. The usually distinct line between his writing and his paintings began to blur, and after much introspection, he decided that it didn’t matter what road he took since in the end it would lead to the same destination. Authentic creative expression. It all came down to a question of perspective. Over time his writing established a marriage with his visual work, and consequently gave birth to a very unique mixed media off-spring.
To quote Clarke, “The people who collect my work tend to be deep thinkers, and have transcended beyond color swatches, and matching décor. They are not necessarily looking for something safe and scripted that the neighbor might have, but rather a work of art that is capable of challenging the mind in very unconventional ways. My goal is to try and create work that will be just as relevant in the year twenty-one hundred and fifty-six, as it is today. Maybe I am putting my hat way beyond my reach, but my unshakable belief in the originality and longevity of my creative effort is really the fuel that keeps me moving forward.”
Clarke insists he doesn’t really have a particular style and has always avoided the distraction of trying to find one. “It’s a trap”, he insists. He argues that the lifeblood of his work is experimentation, combined with a healthy dose of occasional spontaneity. He relishes the thought of knowing that once he has completed a piece it will be as much of a surprise to him, as it is to the viewer who is seeing the work for the first time. The fundamental idea behind his mixed media expression is clearly to work with whatever material that is available at the time, including a plethora of interesting found objects. Clarke believes that objects are capable of having both memory, and energy. “Each object has its own story,” he explains. “What is required is the ability to put aside cynicism and learn to listen to the silence with intention. This helps me to avoid the temptation of just throwing random objects together. I try to interpret the tactile experience as I study each object, some which have been in my studio for decades and waiting for its moment. I’ll find a single object from the sixties Civil Rights movement, maybe a button or a sign, and I’ll try to interpret its story and hopefully contract a piece that I believe will pull the view deep into that particular moment of history.” Clarke goes on to explain that there are times when he imagines himself as a choir conductor who is able to hear the various voices of each object and then he tried to find a way to bring them together in a harmonious, captivating, and even provocative way. The idea to stimulate the viewer on both the conscious and subconscious level.
Clarke believes that there is no “have to” in art, and that an unwavering commitment to experimentation can literally change the world one wall at a time. His daring mixed media journey is a rich amalgam of found objects that he believes have somehow chosen him to interpret their stores. His profound visual compositions invites the viewer to step out of the usual creative comfort zone and to get used to ambiguity as the brain challenges the eye.