Since the early 1980s Tony Clark’s practice has been critically engaged with a range of art historical styles and periods.
Sections from Clark’s Myriorama belongs to an ongoing project Clark initiated in 1985 which deliberately challenges and playfully reconfigures the conventions of the landscape genre. The series is inspired by a children’s game, ‘Clark’s Myriorama’, designed by John Clark in 1824 in which a series of illustrated cards with a shared horizon line could be placed in any order to create myriad panoramic vistas. Tony Clark was drawn to both the serial quality of these reproductions as well as the participatory aspect of involving the subjectivity of the viewer in the arrangement and construction of their own landscape.
While the imagery and style of these works evokes the atmospheric and picturesque paintings of the 17th century by artists such as Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, the reduced palette of blue, pink, sienna and black, the raw materiality and the coarse painterly technique evident in Clark’s canvases, goes against the grain of such naturalistic, highly finished antecedents. Fellow artist Constanze Zikos has described this approach as a ‘sort of punk classicism’. While the Myriorama paintings certainly create a distinctive mood and employ a familiar compositional style which they share with their Baroque precursors, the potentially endless permutations of the series and its lack of site specificity, means that Clark’s paintings exist more as landscapes of the imagination and memory than of a particular place and time. In this particular diptych, a certain tension is generated between its characteristic, ambient qualities and the misalignment of the composition where the two canvases meet. As much as we try to grasp a continuous, illusionistic space, we are thwarted by this off kilter registration and prompted to acknowledge that our apprehension of the landscape is never as seamless as it appears.