Tony Clark spent his childhood in Rome and for the last decade has been based in Syracuse, Sicily—sometimes called 'the New York of the Ancient World'. Much of his work has taken inspiration from the classical past but Clark is no conventional neo-classicist.
His Prix de Rome works are a return to the severe sculptural style of his Jasperware and Bronze Relief paintings. As so often is the case in Clark's work, the subjects have their origins in the decorative arts. The putto, a decorative image of a young child, is found everywhere in Italian disegno. The mysterious groups of figures come from a 1st Century work in glass, made very famous in the 18th Century as The Portland Vase. Clark's versions of these subjects incorporate both the emptiness of the cliché and the urge to reinvent it in paint. His materials and techniques are entirely of our time. The shadows in the paintings are as harsh as signwriting, but the shapes of the figures and their drapery have all been considered with great care. The classical landscape is evoked with loose marbleized layers and washes. With startling acrylic colours and permanent marker ink, the ancient images are brought swiftly and confidently into the present.
Tony Clark has exhibited widely in Australia and Europe in a career of more than two decades. A major retrospective exhibition of his work, Tony Clark—Public and Private Paintings 1982-1998, was held at the Museum of Modern Art at Heide in Melbourne in 1998. Among the many important museum exhibitions in which he has been included are Documenta IX curated by Jan Hoet in 1992 and the 1995 Australian Perspecta. His work was recently included in A Bird in the Hand: Paintings by Tony Clark and John Wolseley at La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre, Bendigo and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and in Nick Cave – The Exhibition at The Arts Centre, Melbourne. His work is held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of Western Australia as well as many private collections in both Australia and Europe. Tony Clark has been exhibiting with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1983. Prix de Rome will be his twelfth solo exhibition with the Gallery.