Extract from Carey Clarke – a tribute,
James Hanley RHA
To sum up the man and the artist would take more than the millions of words we have exchanged over nearly twenty-five years of friendship… but here goes.
Firstly there is the technical prowess in oil, tempera, watercolour and graphite – a benchmark for all of us working in a representational style. His work is all about the perception and analysis of reality, and the ability to then translate that experience into the exquisite language of paint. This he is as passionate about today as the moment decades ago when he first picked up a brush, and many the student over the years has gravitated towards him for that core knowledge, experience and professional nous.
Then there are the years of teaching at NCAD, an enormous contribution to that institution. Why? Because he could talk about the language of painting when it wasn’t popular or fashionable. He shepherded those faltering students more driven by content or ambition but lacking a way of doing, or understanding how to do, and any of us who wanted to learn. Overriding, complimenting or directing and using a timeless language, relevant to any painter, of any time, he taught students to understand design, tone, pictorial harmonies, composition, structure, planes, figure to ground, taste and refinements of aesthetics in the execution of a style. Those words taste and refinement are not anachronisms, but, when really understood, separate routine work from really exceptional drawing and painting.
Then there is Carey Clarke, a stalwart of the RHA (President from 1992 to 1996), demonstrating by example the best of its core values. Academic is not a dirty word, but has been misunderstood or given a negative spin – along with decorative or illustrative – in the lexicon of some critics and pundits. Those who know the true meaning of the word know its application to art. Carey is still an active member of the Academy, is part of its vital core, institutional memory of the place, and still has a voice. We value that voice and the gentle reminders of history and protocol, regulations and anecdotes.
So Carey in all of this has produced a remarkable body of work that is of the best of the European classical tradition, in portraiture, still life, landscape and interiors, and Irish in his commitment to the landscape of his native place – making him the continuum, of Osborne, Orpen and Keating, Hennessy and McGonigal, but by association Sargent, Ingres and Poussin, and right back to Giotto and the formal beginnings of a realistic language of representation.
Full article, Carey Clarke – A Tribute by James Hanley RHA published in exhibition catalogue.