n Image & Text : a Journal for Design - Word and image in dialogue : Peter Clarke's collages and series

Volume 21, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1020-1491



Both a writer and an artist, Peter Clarke (born 1929) tended to follow his chosen careers separately, but he has, since the end of the 1970s, begun introducing texts systematically into his artworks. Initially words appeared as seemingly randomly placed, usually collaged elements in paintings, often taking the form of graffiti on the surface of increasingly abstract images of walls. These works provide insight into Clarke's interaction with the pictorial tropes of Modernism and also reveal a political content in his works, which were previously considered chiefly as unmediated, naturalistic renderings of Cape people. More recently, in Clarke's series, the words make up authored texts which are equal partners with images created on semi-circular fan-shaped formats, now exceeding 150 independent works. Each represents an individual from history, literature or Clarke's South African environment, and the texts are written as monologues, or dialogues between the author-artist and the subject, who is also referenced visually in the imagery of the fan. This article documents the diverse range of subjects and global scope of his references, whether textual or pictorial, which not only provide an enlightening glimpse into the versatile imagination of the artist, but challenge stereotyped views of the contributions of black artists of his generation.

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