“I have been investigating patterns of language in particular the language of advertising and the language of politics. I have been investigating patterns of gendered codes of behaviour and patterns of ideological systems of belief and patterns of everyday, lived cultural practices related to leisure, work, food and fashion. Through this exploration I am attempting to knit these patterns together to create a deeper understanding of history and of a sense of place.” (1)
The central theme underpinning Simon Clark’s painting practice is an investigation of the way Kiwiana operates in relation to the formation of a national identity for Aotearoa / New Zealand. He has been exploring this question since the completion of his MFA [with First Class honours] in 2002 and has created one of the most sustained, critical practice–led visual investigations of Kiwiana conducted within Aotearoa / New Zealand.
Clark’s paintings re-imagine modern-day nostalgia for the New Zealand of the 1950s and 60s. Referencing illustrative techniques from this period, he questions if this yearning for the ‘golden weather’ of times gone by might not be misplaced as he plays with cultural constructions and the framing of what ‘Kiwi’ is. His works demand immediate attention: gold leaf, optical patterning, repeated motifs, and high-contrast colours are all designed to attract the gaze. As the gaze lingers however, the subtle detailing and surface treatments tell more of the stories in which Clark is interested. He deliberately ‘removes the gloss’ from his paintings, giving them a sense of time’s passing and untold histories. As he layers image and composes space, he likewise layers ideas and composes his own historical constructs.
Simon Clark now works full time in his studio but was previously a lecturer in the Department of Communication Design/Pictorial Studies at AUT University. Clark has been painting and exhibiting since the 1980's, he has been a finalist in a number of awards including the Wallace Art Awards, and in 1992, won the Auckland Savings Bank Award to visit the Swire School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic. His works are held in the collections of The James Wallace Arts Trust and the University of Otago, as well as in private collections throughout New Zealand and Australia.
1. Simon Clark, Artist statement, June 2014.