Some people just have it: the power of creating beauty and make it as poisonous and exciting as it can be. Conrad Clarke is one of them. He’s only 24 years old, but his maturity as an artist does not know about age. Landscapes are the element that inspire him the most, and the starting point for his creations: pieces where colors play the main role, and silhouettes seem so familiar and yet so unknown at the same time. The British artist has definitely a bright career before his eyes. Lets hope so anyways, because, as happens with all kinds of beauty, it leaves us hungry for more.
Hi Conrad! How did your passion for art begin? I know you’ve been doing it since you were a kid. Is there some kind of childhood memory involving a painting or a picture that really impressed you?
When I was growing up, my parents would take me to exhibitions whenever we did trips away. Every time we would leave the gallery or museum, the first thing my mum and I would want to do is sit down and do something ourselves. My mum would do the most beautiful watercolours and drawings herself, so I remember that always really impressed me.
What do landscapes have that makes them so inspiring to you?
After living in London I suppose painting a landscape is just a way of celebrating it, almost as a counter to urban life. I simply love how a landscape can leave you feeling enchanted and with such a clear head. They are such dynamic spaces in the way they change in just one minute, an hour, a day, a season, and similarly the emotions they evoke.
How do you mange to communicate human feelings through them?
Different people will respond with different human feelings so it’s not something I can communicate. It all depends on the person. By painting a landscape all I hope to do is change someone’s headspace. A landscape can change your mood, thoughts and emotions but conversely your feeling can change how you feel about a picture. It’s a two way street.
I have a bit of agoraphobia, so I get an overwhelming feeling when I’m in a really wide space. Considering the themes of your work, and how you manage to express anxieties through it, do you get that feeling from your surroundings as well?
It’s definitely something I am interested in and have experienced. Some people perceive danger or feel uncomfortable in wide-open spaces, while others will hate the feeling of a crowded space. I would love to think I explore some of these feelings in my work. While some of my work is of vast open spaces, other pieces are of hollows, ditches or dense woods. Even the fact I paint landscapes while living and working in a space no bigger than 500sq/ft is another example of my anxiety. I need to relate to a larger space.
Your pieces can be disturbing, but they also provoke a great pleasure to the eye. I guess that’s probably related to the beauty of them, a sort of Stendhal syndrome. Can beauty be twisted and cruel sometimes?
I must admit to never having heard about the Stendhal syndrome till now, but after reading about it, it’s kind of you to say so. I work always with the aim of creating something beautiful and transcending. However I also don’t want them to become too pretty and perfect. I’m always trying to find a balance. It’s nice if they are a little ambiguous and mucky as it mirrors the emotional state of people.
You worked as a model for a while, so you’ve experienced “beauty as seen through fashion” as well. What can you tell us about that?
It was a flattering experience, but in hindsight for me it was an unnecessary distraction. Before being scouted I had been working as a studio assistant for an artist in Vyner St in London, and had learnt so much working for him. To go from there to being the show-horse for someone else was a little frustrating. I loved working with such creative people, but I was bursting to be creative myself.
Once I heard colors didn’t really exist because they depend on the light they’re seen with. They play a very important role in your work, how do you experience/feel them?
Colour is generally the first thing I decide on while painting. They are more important than the process, in my opinion. Colours do so much to create the mood of a piece. Just look at Rothko’s work or the way film editors apply filters. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I love playing with them. When working, I generally have a good idea of the next colour I want to use.
Nowadays you have your own studio in Cheltenham, if I’m not mistaken. Do you have some sort of creative routine? As Picasso said, does inspiration find you working?
It was strange moving to my studio in Cheltenham after being in London for 5 years, but after I found my feet, I became happy and comfortable here. It is a beautiful place to live. Inspiration will find you wherever so it’s not something to overthink or force. The only thing to do is give yourself a chance. It usually takes me at least an hour to get comfortable painting. I usually put on some music or the radio and play about.
You’ve experimented with many materials and techniques. From your point of view, the rule in the current art landscape would be that “there are no rules”?
I don’t have any working rules myself. I have a way I tend to work, but I like experimenting and try and avoid getting too precious about my work. Every material and technique has its own benefits so why not use them. With having no rules it allows accidents, which I find is just another interesting layer to a painting.
What would you like to see through your window when you become eighty? Something closer to reality or to your paintings?
I just want to smile looking out of it. It’s impossible to decide now as I can’t anticipate what I will feel or want then. I just hope it’s a beautiful home overlooking a lovely garden.