Artist Pete Clarke blogs about his painting doubt and distance… of lost content, which was exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery as part of John Moores 2018. It is one of two works from the show purchased by the Walker for its permanent collection. The other is David Lock‘s El Muniria.
“From Jack Smith’s Creation and Crucifixion in 1957 to Michael Simpson’s Squint (19) in 2016, the John Moores Painting Prize has, over the years, charted the shifts, changes and debates in contemporary painting, from social realism in its beginning through abstraction to metaphoric narrative. The evocative John Moores prize winners display at the Walker Art Gallery can be seen to represent a cultural and social barometer, illustrating how painting in all its diversity of method, material and practice can relate, like Clement Greenberg’s ‘umbilical cord of gold’, to broader issues, ideas and discussions in society.
To receive the long awaited email on 9th April 2018 to say I was one of the 60 artists selected for the John Moores 2018, given that there were so many competitive applications, was a pleasurable and delightful surprise. On that day I could not access the email notification until the early evening as I was returning back from the Isle of Wight. Therefore on my long drive from motorway to motorway I went through many contradictory thoughts and emotions. I speculated and then consoled myself, trying to imagine my picture in the Walker’s beautiful spaces but then sadly preparing myself, stiff upper lip-like, for yet another disappointment. At about 9.00pm on my return home I nervously opened my Gmail account to read the first sentence:
“Dear Pete, I am pleased…” And you bet I was!
The selected painting, doubt and distance… of lost content, was inspired by my seeing an old photograph that was published in the Echo newspaper of the derelict Theatre Royal Building in Williamson Square, Liverpool. I was influenced by that dislocated image, Piranesi-like, and then by my idea to use an open painting process – it made sense to connect image and method with text. At the time I was re-reading John Berger’s G where the phrase ‘doubt and distance’ comes from, combined with A E Housman’s Land of lost content, two very curious literary bedfellows.
And now, to have the painting purchased for the Walker Art Gallery’s collection, a gallery I love and visit on many occasions. To even think of my work in the same collection as the marvelous paintings there astonishes me. This is a great honour and privilege, particularly being a Liverpool artist, almost the culmination of many years of working, looking and studying. The inspiration of seeing Poussin’s Ashes of Phocion, a painting I have tried to transcribe over the years, and Sargent’s Vespers, amongst many other amazingly impressive paintings in the collection gives me, as an artist, the confidence and determination to return to my Bluecoat studio ‘to keep on keeping on’.”
Pete Clarke, April 2019
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