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A new exhibition of dramatic landscapes, dream worlds and shadowy figures from P.E.I.-based artist, Gerard Clarkes opens this weekend at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (CCAG).
Beginning Jan. 16, patrons can experience Gerard Clarkes: A Haunted Land at the CCAG, featuring a selection of landscapes that the painter produced in Toronto in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as more recent portraits and works from the past decade. Most of the selected works have not been previously exhibited in Atlantic Canada and present a retrospective look into a critical point in this artist’s career.
“The aim of this exhibition is to introduce the paintings of Gerard Clarkes to a new audience,” says Pan Wendt, CCAG curator. "Many of the works are quite magical and we are excited to show them to a public that hasn't had a chance to see them until now."
Born in 1934, Clarkes studied art in his native Winnipeg, as well as Montreal and Toronto. By the early 1960s, he was represented by major galleries in Toronto and Montreal and had solo exhibitions in Toronto and Vancouver. By the mid-1960s he was appointed director of art at York University and later director of the Burnaby Art Gallery.
Gerard Clarkes: A Haunted Land features works that defy easy categorization. His paintings often depict enigmatic casts of characters positioned in allusive landscapes, like actors placed in a tableau.
When reviewing his formative exhibition Gerard Clarkes: transcending, reviewers of the day spoke with uncertainty of his mystifying subject matter and unique style, which had clearly struck a chord with art-lovers and collectors in the 1960s.
“Clarkes is a peculiar painter who entices us into a dream world of his own and holds us fascinated …, said Manitoba art critic Robert Ayre in 1964.
Dorothy Pfeiffer of the Montreal Gazette wrote, “Some of Clarkes’ incongruously garbed figures appear as phantoms from an earlier era; as lost souls wandering through a prairie twilight” before concluding that “time both is, and is not, of the essence” in Clarkes’ paintings.
Today Clarkes’ work can be found in many public and private collections, including at Queen’s University, the Woodstock Art Gallery and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Since 1985, the artist has composed music almost exclusively, until returning actively to painting in the past decade. He maintains a rural home and studio on P.E.I., where he settled in the 1990s.
“These works resonate with us today because they captured a sense of up-rootedness and uncertainty in relation to where we find ourselves, which is uncannily familiar at this time,” says Wendt, of the forthcoming CCAG exhibition.
Gerard Clarkes: A Haunted Land runs Jan. 16 to May 9. An accompanying publication will be launched during the exhibition.