Leigh Clarke is a London based artist who is the Printmaking tutor at the Royal Academy. He started off his art career by studying a BA in Fine Art Printmaking at Brighton University where he creates a lot of Abstract Lino cuts that use abstraction colour theory. In the evenings he used to do Stand Up Comedy. Towards the end of his degree and in his degree show he felt untrue to himself, he was selling his work to banks and investment people, in the 1990’s there was a inequality and art would be made to generate cash, he used the example of Caravaggio’s Catholic Church investment. At this point his comedy took off and he was enjoying it a lot more than his art. He then took on an MA at the Royal Academy where he discussed his comedy in his interview and it helped him to get a place.
In his studio in the East End he tried to work out how his comedy act which he has now started to incorporate singing into. He wanted to be able to make these songs visual which is when he started changing and adapting his print making.
He explained that in 2004 the second Iraq war coincided with the discovery of Michael Jackson’s alleged child abuse. He noticed that Jackson was more on the front of the tabloids than anything about the war. From here he created the Save the Kidz project where he used an old image of Michael Jackson in the Jackson Five where he looks exhausted. From this series of print images he aims to take on the question, should we have saved the kids from Michael Jackson or should we have saved Michael Jackson as a kid.
The Hackney Gazette is known for posting headlines that highlight the worse news possible and also making it quite threatening. Clarke started taking the posters that showed the headlines and cut up the letters, he then scanned them into his computer and made his own alphabet from using all the first letters of bad words, replicating posters and making good news out of the bad news.
Leigh was invited by a Norwegian curator to create a piece of artwork in his town. During his visit to the town, Leigh went on several walks and one day discovered the Salmon Museum, he took interest in how important the salmon was to the people of the town. He also discovered that Kevin Costner had once been to the town and was now a sort of ‘claim to fame’ for the people. Being inspired by both of these and the battered case of Dances with Wolves in the library. He created Dances with Salmon posters which he pasted up around the town. The people got really excited and were extremely disappointed when they found out the untruth in the posters.
Leigh has always had a fascination with autobiographies and how they are always beautifully bound and covered. They always have dust covers and foil writing. He decided to carefully remove the spines of all the autobiographies and cover them in ink, the ink was deflected by the foil. He then blew up the spines and printed them creating a huge book. He then repeated this by this time by sticking several spines on the wall making a more realistic looking bookshelf. This include 300 spines.
I thought Leigh’s work was really well thought out and extremely interesting. It was a packed talk with lots of different pieces and ideas thrown in and I have taken out the ones that I found engaging. He was an animated speaker and drew his audience in and even though the talk went on for over an hour, I was still eager to hear more. Overall a really intriguing talk and presentation of an compelling artist practice.