David Ivan Clark. Canadian, born 1959

Artist Statement

My paintings hover in the space between romantic landscape and weathered industrial artifact. They dwell in limbo, each marking the spot where nostalgia collides with fact, where celebration and elegy converge.

From a distance the paintings present land, sky and nothing more. Held up to the turbulent flux of the mechanized world, they offer refuge. As one draws near, however, bucolic illusion becomes fugitive: deep space collapses to surface; distant horizon reverts to paint, pitted and scoured; serene haven, glimpsed as if on film, old, grainy and scratched, dissolves to abstraction.

The vast, silent plains of western Canada, where I was born and raised, inform both my life and work. As a child I felt the numinous in the natural world which surrounded me. Fast-forward to the post-modern age in which we are asked to view the world, not as independent from and external to ourselves, but as internal construct flung outwards. We no longer inhabit the world but our own shimmering projections. From this vantage, the existence of the natural sanctuary I inhabited as a child, which sustains me still, is called into question. My work explores this dilemma.




born 1959, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, Canada

1983 BA Princeton University, NJ
1987-88 Oregon School of Design, Portland

public collections
The City of Richmond, Richmond, CA
Resources for Community Development, The Arbors, Richmond, CA


FEATURE: Reviews
David Ivan Clark, Paintings

by Thomas Cunniff
Spur Projects
Portola Valley
October 19 - November 22, 2006

Oakland artist David Ivan Clark is currently offering a suite of new paintings as part of a group show with Ann Hogle, Ashlee Ferlito, and Melissa Day. Clark has been known in shows over several years in San Francisco as a painter of landscape based meditations that evoke the industrial manipulation of nature. His works raise the question of whether there can exist a pure vision of the natural apart from the stamp of human intention, while paradoxically depicting a vastness of land and sky that flatly seem impossible to constrain. He had often studded his surfaces, which are made of stainless steel sheet metal, with a border of nails or rivets suggesting the mandate of productivity amidst the vastness depicted. In this show, his focus has subtly shifted from border to screen, with the visual emphasis on painterly grandeur and its artifice.

Clark's working method begins with a carefully built up ground coat on a steel surface, over which he applies multiple layers of pigment which are in turn sanded or otherwise abraded, so that a series of ridges appear from surface anomalies of the ground along with layers of paint in varying degrees of revelation. Both color and surface contrive to give the effect of landscape, often as if seen through a screen or grid emerging from the ground to become the structure of the image. Sometimes the grid is as faint as a light drizzle and at others, it becomes the dominant pictorial element. Because of its propensity for surprise and happy accidents, it's a process that produces an abundance of pleasure in this artist's hands, and here he has pushed its effects to impressive new dimensions.

Landscape 51 06 is a rectangular triptych measuring 132 inches by 64 inches, a commanding work whose vertical striations emphasize the panels' stolid presence with all the visual formality of a Japanese screen. It is a painting that sits on the border of depiction, an oblique homage of traditional landscape painting and its illusions, though reduced in Clark's reckoning to such minimal trappings as to push the genre toward abstraction. Its effect combines a fiery, brilliant light with the calculated repetition of its form.

Immanent Domain
by DeWitt Cheng

Shock of the old! Abstraction began a century ago with utopian motivations, as avant-garde artists sought to create personal yet universal aesthetic religions. Metaphysical Abstraction, a show featuring works by well-known local artists Jamie Brunson, Freddy Chandra, David Ivan Clark, Lori del Mar, David O. Johnson, David King, Keira Kotler, Michelle Mansour, Jenn Shifflet, Hadi Tabtabai, and Alex Zecca, attempts to correct the intellectual and philosophical denaturing of abstraction over the past three generations by expropriating undermanned Formalist-held territory. The show's small catalogue, with essays by art historian Mark Levy, is helpful in explaining context. While curators Brunson and Mansour find formal commonalities in the art — "luminosity and atmosphere, structure, spatial depth, and a sense of location; shifts from microcosmic to macrocosmic scale; formal elements including line and color; layering and repetition; refined surface qualities; and meticulous facture" — they also see the works acting as portals between different realms — as liminal, transitional spaces, or spiritual catalysts.

A few highlights: Brunson's shimmering painting "Weave," its nearly invisible lattice a presence without center or boundary; Clark's landscape paintings on stainless steel, all horizon and sky, emerging from lengthy painting and sanding, deposition and removal; Johnson's minimalist sculptures, Zen paradoxes — heavy concrete cubes surmounted by fragile, luminous handles; King's collages, linking microcosm and macrocosm; Mansour's iconic depiction of interpenetrating matter and energy; Shifflet's dreamlike dawn-of-time pondscapes; Tabatabai's immaculately crafted grids of wood, thread, paint, and wax; and Zecca's colored-ink mandalas. Koppman, again: "To be human means to be embodied; this life, this body, this earth, is in itself sacred."



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