Accompanied by a signed copy of Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke.
Iziko, South African National Gallery, Cape Town, Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke, 20 October 2011 to 19 February 2012.
Institute of International Visual Arts, London, Peter Clarke: Wind Blowing on the Cape Flats, 5 December 2012 to 30 April 2013
Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin (2011). Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke, Johannesburg: Standard Bank of South Africa. Page 144-146, 156, 170 and illustrated in colour on page 144 and 145:
In Homage to Dumile, painted at Boule d’Amont as (George) Hallett’s camera recorded in a photograph of the artist at work, Clarke developed the idea of graffiti as political text. The gouache includes extensive quotations inscribed on a buttressed white wall reminiscent of Cape architecture, its monolithic solidity a potent reminder of apartheid. Yet Clarke’s choice of text from Langston Hughes and Frantz Fanon, which reflect his reading at the time, focus on rebuilding rather than destroying. Hughes’s uplifting poem ‘Youth’, and lines such as Fanon’s ‘That the enslavement of man cease for ever ... That it be possible for me to discover & to love man wherever he may be ...’ are messages of hope, echoed on the wall nearby in popular form in an image of a heart pierced by an arrow. The largest inscription on the wall is a personal one that poignantly brings the focus back to South Africa: ‘Homage to Dumile & to the children the brothers and sisters of the Diaspora where ever they went, where ever they might be. Clarke’.
Ideas for this work seem to have been triggered by Hallett’s compelling photographs of Dumile Feni, an artist whose work pricked Clarke’s interest, although they had never met. Popularly known as the ‘Goya of the townships’, Dumile, with his outspoken critique in anguished images of human suffering, had been unable to practice as an artist in South Africa because of restrictions imposed on his own freedom of movement, and had gone into exile in 1968 (see Dube 2006). Clarke knew Dumile’s work, particularly Train disaster in SANG, but the immediate starting point for this work was a UNESCO poster owned by Hallett. It was based on Dumile’s own tribute Homage to Soweto, depicted in ink, gouache and watercolour in blood reds and browns, now in the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Dumile’s composite figure, a Janus-like creature, both vulnerable man and ravaging beast, acts as a double-faced protagonist in Clarke’s composition, which is devoid of other figures. Amidst an accumulation of graffiti, the replicated poster forms a strong focal point, prominent because of its dark frame and intense colours picked up in the red-stained ground and sky.
Painted as though stuck on the wall, it also suggests the possibility of collage, a new avenue of exploration already broached in the scrap paper skies of his Norwegian paintings. Here Clarke’s text and Hughes’ poem are in fact collaged onto the surface, as are areas of clouds and foreground, formed by torn scraps of paper printed with wood grain in orange ink.