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Joe Clarke, Brutalism
From BrutalismJoe Clarke

The young artist focused on Britain, beauty and brutalism

Ahead of his latest London show, Joe Clarke talks about uncovering beauty in the unexpected

London artist Joe Clarke first caught our eye at the beginning of the year, when he teamed up with Hetty Douglas and Alfie Kungu to present the London group show, Screw. Showcasing mixed-media works by the trio, the exhibition took inspiration from technological references, design and street art.

Tonight Clarke opens a new show, titled Brutalism, which “explores subjects related to Britain’s working-class urban environment, atmosphere, architecture and landscape” by reappropriating the materials, textures, colours and objects that are typically associated with them.

Fixing his gaze on Britain – and London in particular – Clarke plays with raw, industrial materials typically found on council estates and building sites. With brutalism in mind, Clarke explains that he is aiming to uncover beauty where it’s least expected.

Below, we catch up with the artist midway through setting up the show to find out more.

Tell us about this exhibition: what can we expect to see in terms of artwork, materials and themes explored?

Joe Clarke: The show exhibits a series of homeware products and chrome-welded lighting, presented within an installation. It will utilise a lot of industrial materials – metals, concrete, glass and plastics – reflective of the subjects referenced. Also exhibited are two triptychs of paintings, one by myself and the second by contributor George Stevens.

There’s more of an emphasis on creating functional items and interior design. The project is ongoing and to be further developed beyond this presentation. 

How does brutalism as a concept inspire and influence you? Has it always been a thread in your work?

Joe Clarke: Architectural references are something which have inspired my work for a long time. Brutalism is characterised by rough materials (like) concrete, brick and glass and encompasses angular forms. The original architects behind the movement believed at that moment in time (that) they were creating a new utopia. Concrete is an innovative material, both socially responsive and aesthetically beautiful. This approach is one I am trying to apply to my practice.  

The show’s press release says that you’re trying to find beauty in a place where it’s least expected – can you define what beauty means to you?

Joe Clarke: Beauty is subjective and my taste changes quite frequently, but within art and design I love minimalism, simplicity and spaciousness. 

The work depicts themes of class and social infrastructure by rejecting misconceptions and proposing ideas of utopianism instead – can you expand on how you hope to achieve some of these goals?

Joe Clarke: Brutalist architecture can be found throughout the social spectrum, butI feel the misconception people have is its association with the lower classes. Reappropriating the cosmetics of this landscape and presenting them within a gallery environment is a complete juxtaposition and perhaps enables people to reconsider its values.

Brutalism opens tonight in Hackney Downs at Our/London from 6pm. Follow Clarke here for more updates