TONY CLARK’S STRANGE IDYLLS
GEOFF COX, CAROLYN DORÉE, GEORGE MOSSE, KIRSTEN NORRIE & SIMON PERITON
GEOFF COX: I want to begin with just how beautiful these profoundly mysterious paintings are … From the early, scrubby, sort-of-malicious works with their bitter, scorched phantom temples scratched into miasma, through the magnificently empty, storm-galvanized landscapes to these ghost-peopled Shakespeare operas...
SIMON PERITON: I agree. They’re intriguing. Troubled, Romantic beauties. I find myself trying to understand them. The new images with figures definitely have a narrative feel to them. I find myself getting sucked in, trying to work out their rules, or whether they have any.
CAROLYN DORÉE: On this question of rules … Clark’s hermetic pursuit, with all its poise and sfumato and paradox and suggestion … Should we view it – him – with a degree of suspicion?
GEOFF COX: You mean trepidation? There’s a deal of trouble afoot here. Or do you feel something disturbing going on beneath the surface, something in his stance that makes the undertaking itself suspect?
SIMON PERITON: It is odd that someone paints like this now. It seems so outdated and yet Clark is obviously devoted to it. The endless repetition and small scale of the individual pieces suggests something devotional, but the overall Myriorama is quite epic in its vision … A hint at greater possibility for the future?
GEOFF COX: A sort of burnished, ‘pregnant-with-possible-glories’ effulgence …
SIMON PERITON: But do you think he’s playing with us? After all, the Myriorama is a game to start with.
GEOFF COX: There’s a tension between the Myriorama displaying every tic of obsession – this 28 year endeavour shows no signs of having run its course – and a lofty sense of removal that is disquieting. The Myriorama boasts all the marks of ‘outsider art’ compulsion but feels worlds apart …
CAROLYN DORÉE: They make me uneasy. I don’t know if it’s the paintings themselves, or dimly discerning a sort of cloaked purpose that deludes or excludes me. Maybe that’s just a reflex response to Nature …
GEOFF COX: Anxiety and awe … There’s a critical obsession with fixing Clark’s ‘position’: he provokes a real hard-on for ‘pinning it down’, which is a bit seductive but also feels dull and sort of doomed …
CAROLYN DORÉE: But why this relentless unfolding of raw classical matter?
SIMON PERITON: The Myriorama concept suggests endless infinite landscapes with a relatively small set of individual images generating spectacular numbers in terms of variations. It also prefigures the birth of photography – all those thaumatropes, zoetropes and so forth – and leads very nicely into Muybridge and the advent of film. Are Clark’s paintings frames from an unseen film? He’s scanning the world as a landscape, attempting to make a sequential record that will never be true.
Excerpt from: Murray White (ed.), Myriorama: Tony Clark, Murray White Room, Melbourne, 2012, p. 151, to be released late February 2012
Tony Clark has exhibited widely in Australia and Europe since 1982. In 1998 a major retrospective exhibition, ‘Tony Clark – Public and Private Paintings 1982-1998’, was held at the Museum of Modern Art at Heide in Melbourne. Clark has been included in many important group exhibitions, such as ‘Documenta IX’ in 1992 and the 1995 Australian Perspecta. In February 2012, a major monograph on his work, ‘Myriorama: Tony Clark’ will be published by the Murray White Room, Melbourne. Tony Clark’s work is held in prestigious collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Queensland Art Gallery u0131 Gallery of Modern Art and The TarraWarra Museum of Art. Tony Clark has been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1983. ‘Buehnenbilder’ will be his fourteenth solo exhibition with the Gallery.