Mark Tanner Sculpture Award Show:
12 September – 18 October 2008
Clara Clark, at 24, is the youngest ever recipient of the Mark Tanner Sculpture Award. The panel, with guest selector Phyllida Barlow, was immensely impressed by the scale of her ambition, and the subtle wit of the interaction between illusion and materiality.
Clara Clark makes kinetic constructions of some beauty and complexity to produce very specific visual effects from a particular viewing position. The inspiration for the images Clark produces is intentionally commonplace and often intentionally slight. She looks at what we all look at, possibly every day, and creates it anew: the clouds which form, dissipate and reform in the sky or in a cup of coffee; how the view of a city alters as we walk up a hill; the movement of waves on a calm sea.
The enormity of the mechanics she employs sometimes sit oddly with the slightness of the eventual reward (the vision, or vista, created sometimes amounting to an empty grass tundra), countering the human hunger for drama with a jolt of disappointment which is both funny and ultimately more satisfying.
Clark leads us to a position within the work where, in amongst hard mechanics, macho structure and ragged assemblages of miscellaneous materials, we are suddenly given a view (and often a physical sensation) of being suddenly 'elsewhere'. Vertiginous, ordinary or other-worldly, these sensations evolve into narrative/explanation about our position within this 'elsewhere', thus revealing the structure as an elaborate machine for trickery and imaginative transportation. Her concern is to repeatedly pull us back to the basic tenets of perception: “In my work the sculptural form is an extravagant tool for producing a live, three-dimensional image. Mechanics and practical elements are left visible in order to preserve the idea that the experience has been constructed; the scene is no more than the materials it is made from, but simple triggers work on the imagination and cause unexpected physical sensations relating to scale and position in space. I'm interested in determining how far removed a representation can be from its source and still be believed in.”
For Standpoint, Clark will create several large new pieces that explore and alter the unusual architecture of the gallery's divided spaces, highlighting the spatial challenge they present. Her works have been likened in the past to fairground rides and automatons, and as such the viewer will move through the gallery, encountering a new perceptual experience in each room.
In one structure, silky tissued layers of fabric roll drunkenly over wheels only half hidden from view, reflecting Clark's ongoing exploration of ways to recreate the appearance of water -building on the piece 'Sea' made for the Sassoon Gallery in 2006.
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In Cloud Machine (image at top), what first confronts you is a large rough-hewn structure, full of subtly menacing presence as if it were about to burst into life and rush towards you. It produces a quick catch in the breath to then glimpse, in the midst of all this, clouds floating away from you as if you were laid on your back staring at the sky on a summer's day. The meditative and timeless quality to the images she creates emerges thus - awry, catching you by surprise.