December 12th, 2019
The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the artwork by Joshua Clarke, are the eyes in his pieces. From there you notice his use of colours and shading. HIs use of religious symbolisms such as the halo used in religious iconography as well as the characters clothing and body positions, balances well with the deeply surreal feel. As well as subtle dark contexts, the facial expressions carry a haunting vibe. Joshua’s art feels like all his characters are self aware and suffering an existential crisis. It’s wicked to see.
Where are you from?
I am from Swansea, Wales, but have been living in London for 5 years now. Before that I lived in Nottingham and China.
How did you get started on art?
It all started with, as I’m sure most things do, a potent combination of existential boredom and LSD! I have only been painting for around a year, but feel I have found my passion. I had been trying to express myself through other art forms, prose, poetry, whatever else. But when I painted my first self portrait, I was hooked.
What’s the first memorable art experience?
That’s difficult to answer really. The first time I showed my work earlier this year was obviously a big one. Getting my first commission. But I think if you go back to before I started taking painting seriously and looking for so inspiration online, I came across an article on Egon Schiele. I had no idea portraiture and figurative art could be the way Schiele painted. I was entranced. As someone who had no formal art education, it was a real eye opener into what art can be.
What inspires you and what inspires your artwork?
For me, my art has been a form of introspection. I used to be very psychedelic in my work with bright colours, because I saw myself as a ‘trippy artist’. But I sort of morphed into a more serious reflection of self. Looking inward is a never ending source of inspiration, no matter who you are. It’s a way to contextualize emotions, to process the darker aspects of the psyche. It could be body dysmorphia or anxiety or depression, it’s all in my work. It’s probably when I’m at my most communicative and honest.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? And why?
I’ve had many! I have been working since I was 16 so there has been plenty of time to rack up a few nightmare jobs. I’ve had some decent ones as well, don’t get me wrong. When I was 17 I worked at my local McDonalds, that wasn’t what I would consider a fun experience. But since my professional career started, I have worked in the recruitment industry which is highly stressful, transactional and money orientated. From a mental health standpoint, that probably was the hardest.
How would you describe your artwork?
I often use the term ‘grotesque surrealism’. Because of the colour, the thick black lines, the subject matter. I don’t really know which ‘category’ it would fall into. From my perspective, it’s very expressive. Almost impressionist. That’s a hard one to answer and I would guess that because I’m self taught and still learning about different theories and schools of thought it’s hard to pin down. If I was being super pretentious I would describe it as a journey of self exploration, using allegory to express and subvert. But that’s if I’m being pretentious.
What’s your favourite mythological creature?
I’ve always been drawn to snakes. I love the different interpretations of the meaning of snakes. In Christian tradition is seen as a negative presence, however in South American tradition, like the Amazonian tribes or Mayan mythology it’s a source of knowledge. Hindus see Sesa as a giant cobra holding the universe in its hood. I do love their cultural significance and how they are interpreted across the world. From fear to reverence.
More recently I have been very interested in the Greek creatures Hecatoncheires, or the ‘hundred-handed-ones. I love hands, painting them is a real passion and that has been a huge inspiration.
What is your process for creating a piece from start to finish?
Well, a regular day, I get home from work and start sketching immediately. I have a corporate office job so there is not an abundance of time to paint, I need to make the most of it. Usually I’ll take a few reference photos and start sketching, adding bits and pieces or removing bits from the figures such as limbs ect, depends on how I’m feeling. I’ll stick on a bit of music or a podcast and work then throughout the evening. I try to do a painting a night but that’s not always achievable. Usually I’ll come into it with an idea of composition or with something I want to convey, this will have occurred to me earlier. I also will have my palette laid out before hand.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I’ve been told my style is quite unique, Its hard to describe. Sometimes I think it’s bold, but then sometimes I want to convey fragility and weakness. But I use negative space quite a lot. It borrows from painters who inspire me, with my own vision mixed in there. I come back to that grotesque surrealism phrase, that’s the best I can define it.
What is the best feedback you’ve received about your work?
Getting selected to take part in exhibitions has been a massive boost to my confidence. Having 3 exhibitions in my first year of painting is something I take great pride in. People have been very supportive across the board. Recently a very established artist was very complimentary at an exhibition which was another great boost. But beyond that, my wife is my greatest critic, which is really value. If she has any feedback, good or bad she’ll let me know! When I produce something that she likes, that’s the best feeling and then I know I’ve done something good!
What do you find to be the biggest challenge as an artists today?
I think the commercialization of the art world is something that does hold people back. I was recently asked to take part in a portrait exhibition at a popular London gallery, but the cost of exhibiting was a serious amount of money. I am in a situation due to my day job I can explore a lot of opportunities, but it was too much. People who are not in my situation are even further away from being able to take part. Instagram could be a huge benefit for artists to get their work out there, but it’s addictive and creates a constant need for ‘likes’. I’ve found myself questioning myself if a piece I valued didn’t get the ‘likes’. It’s a vicious circle and makes one consider the tastes of others before just producing what they want to.
Success in Art is a strange thing, because it’s easy to equate success with sales. For me it’s more than that, it’s about being visible and saying something unique to you. But unless your selling or having another source of income, it’s difficult to sustain.
If you could have a studio anywhere where would it be?
Vienna. Hands down, no argument. Being based in London is fantastic, the scene here is great and there is a lot of visibility. But I went to Vienna a few months ago, visited the Leopold Museum, which houses Schiele and Klimt; it was akin to a religious experience. The architecture, the way of life there, the history and the lineage of great art produced there is unmatched. I also love Berlin, and thought it would be the place I would end up, until I went to Vienna. Maybe Berlin first while I’m still young, then Vienna.
Is there an aspect in art that you wish your were more proficient at?
I am highly self critical, as I’m sure most if not all artists are. I think I could learn more traditional techniques, create more depth and movement in my work. Those are common criticisms I give myself. But it’s a process and there is always something in every painting I produce that irritates me. It may not be picked up on by others, but I see it and want to strive towards the perfect execution of my vision the next time.
If you could create album art for a band which band would it be?
I don’t know if anyone would want me to! But if they did, one of my favourite bands is The National and I play them quite a bit while
I’m painting. Lingua Ignota would also be incredible. But, guilty pleasure, if I could choose anyone, it would have to be Guns n Roses. Axl, hit me up man, I’ll do you a deal.
Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?
Oreos, purely because I haven’t heard about the other one.