News | 30-12-2023

Knighthood for stained glass maestro Brian Clarke

Congratulations to innovative stained glass artist Brian Clarke, who has been awarded a knighthood in HM The King’s New Year Honours list 2024.

Speaking in response to the announcement, Clarke said, “I’m feeling very surprised and grateful really. It’s wonderful to get noticed for one’s work, but to get honoured for it too is really very encouraging.

“I am working class by birth and by inclination. My art is for the working class and my public art in stained glass is intended to beautify the corners of the world it occupies.

“The medium that I’m best known for, I used to be best known as a painter, but I think there’s been more attention paid to my stained glass in later years. And it’s a medium that this country has had a thousand years of tremendous history, this medium has impacted on our culture in a substantial way. It’s a wonderful, wonderful medium. It lifts the spirits and helps articulate the nature of architecture. It’s a thrilling medium, and I want it to last as long as it possibly can.

“And so, anything like this, of course, will contribute to supporting the continuation of what is a unique and special part of our visual arts culture.”

Clarke celebrated his 70th birthday in July 2023 and has marked the occasion with his current exhibition, A Great Light, on show at Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery, London, until 7 January 2024. The exhibition is presented by HENI and features works dating from 2002 to the present day.

Since the 1970s, Oldham-born Clarke has drawn stained glass away from its use as religious art through innovations in technology and visual presentation, such as fabricating freestanding stained glass panels without lead, developing Pointillism in glass, as well as through the creation of sculptural stained glass works inspired by collage, made primarily or entirely of lead – thereby pushing the medium to its extremes in both directions: absolute transparency and complete opacity.

The current exhibition shows how flexible and wide-ranging the medium can be. His latest work, ‘Ardath’, is a 42m2 wall of mouth-blown glass, bathing the gallery in light and colour, as flowering meadow motifs build up a rich and dense tapestry in etched glass.

Meanwhile, new work ‘Stroud Ossuary’ depicts hundreds of skulls towering 10m above visitors, with each graphically etched skull carefully placed on traditional lead lines. Other works are on a smaller scale, such as the ‘Kabinettscheiben’, which are based on his latest collages and drawings.

Earlier works are presented in a gallery filled with vibrantly coloured folding screens, layering a multitude of patterns and colours. In contrast, large leadworks create a contemplative environment, filled with reflection and mourning.

Newport Street Gallery states, ‘Large battleships and beachboys from 2002 show Clarke’s continued experimentation with method and process. Triple-layered sheets of dot-matrix glass build up the translucent and transparent image of the battleship as if in a distant haze. The same process was employed on a monumental scale with architects Norman Foster and Partners on the Al Faisaliah Centre, Riyadh.’

Over the years, he has been commissioned by other leading designers, including Japanese architect Arata Isozaki and the late British architect Dame Zaha Hadid, to design stained glass for buildings across the world.

Clarke’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Corning Museum of Glass, New York, and the Tate in London.

Find out more about the A Great Light exhibition here.

Find out more about Brian Clarke via his website.

Fellow British stained glass artist John Reyntiens was awarded an MBE in last year’s 2023 New Year Honours list, alongside Barbara Beadman, who received an MBE for services to the glass industry.

Photo: Brian Clarke with his collage-inspired glass work. Image courtesy Brian Clarke studio.

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