'Towards retreat': modernism, craftsmanship and spirituality in the work of Geoffrey Clarke

PhD Thesis

LeGrove, Judith 2007. 'Towards retreat': modernism, craftsmanship and spirituality in the work of Geoffrey Clarke. PhD Thesis https://doi.org/10.48773/948yv
AuthorsLeGrove, Judith
TypePhD Thesis

Currently, Geoffrey Clarke (b 1924) is best known for his work in iron, exhibited with the group of 'young' British sculptors at the 1952 Venice Biennale: Robert Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Reg Butler, Lynn Chadwick, Bernard Meadows,
Eduardo Paolozzi, and William Turnbull. Through this group, which Read identified as 'participating in a general revival of the art of sculpture', Clarke touched the circle of the British avant-garde in the early 19508, gaining prominence and a considerabledegree of notoriety for his work. While Clarke's work in no way supported Read's interpretation of intent - that the new sculpture transmitted a collective guilt, an 'iconography of despair' - it did accord with Read in propounding art as a psychological construct, and in reflecting an awareness of the current interest in Jungian psychoanalysis. Throughout his career, Clarke has repeatedly engaged with issues of British modernism (a definition of which will be one aim of this thesis). In the early 1960s
he changed his medium to aluminium; developing his own, fast method of casting using expanded polystyrene, subjecting his sculpture to a process of increased abstraction and inviting comparison with Caro's sculpture and the fonnalist criticism
of Greenberg. In the late 1960s he produced a series of landscape works which paralleled the work of Richard Long and other 'land' artists. Clarke also experimented in the early 19708 with the extension of sculpture from purely visual
parameters, for instance using aroma as a constituent, or involving the active participation of the viewer. This thesis seeks to address the current critical neglect of Clarke's work by contextualising his work in relation to that of other sculptors and by identifying those aspects which are innovative or particular. His work is thus considered from four viewpoints. 'Philosophy and Spirituality' considers the sources of the artist's beliefs. 'Symbolism and Form' traces the formation of Clarke's visual imagery and its application. 'Craftsmanship: Materials, Processes, Applications' examines Clarke's experimental approach to materials and his commitment to creating his own work.Finally, 'Architectural and Design Projects' discusses issues of collaboration and
patronage and how the elements of spirituality, symbolism, craftsmanship and creative purpose function in the artist's work. Issues relating to notions of vii modernism and postmodernism are discussed throughout the text and drawn together in the Conclusion, which also suggests reasons for the artist's critical neglect.

KeywordsTwentieth century British sculpture; Geoffrey Clarke; British avant-garde
PublisherUniversity of Derby
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.48773/948yv
Web address (URL)hdl:10545/299498
File Access Level
File Access Level
Output statusUnpublished
Publication process dates
Deposited22 Aug 2013, 10:32
Publication dates2007
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