In Listening to Distant Thunder, the monograph of Peter Clarke’s work that accompanied his major retrospective held at the Standard Bank Gallery in 2011, Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin provide commentary on two oils he painted in the 1970s depicting scenes similar to Bathers. “Clarke has spoken of the boys capturing a world of innocence – hence their nudity,” they write1. The “warm glow” of the “sunlit scenes [recall] the Simon’s Town of Clarke’s youth”2 and represent a memory of simplicity and stability in a time of upheaval.
The “rather stylised formality”3 of the figures adds a pensive dimension, as if they are “re-enacting a distant memory of a golden age.”4 Clarke’s reputation as a colourist, particularly in this phase of his career, is evident in his use of a limited palette, relying instead on tonal variation to create his effects. Also in evidence are Clarke’s stylistic explorations into modernist-inspired angled and faceted abstractions, particularly in the rocks and sky.
1 Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin. (2011) Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke, Joahnnsburg: The Standard Bank of South Africa. Page 124.