To inquire after the work of Gerard Luther Clarkes contact his daughter Millefiore Clarkes at email@example.com
A HAUNTED LAND
Solo Exhibition - The Confederation Centre Art Gallery
Curated by Pan Wendt
January 16 - June 9 2021
So...what can be made of our unmaking... except we sing... and of the undoable... we dance... and the unseeable... except to see... our future, in... the end?
Aphorism # 1,222
Gerard Luther Clarkes, painter, composer, poet, Renaissance Man, passed away May 14th, 2022 at the age of 88. He went as he wished, suddenly and without much warning. An ardent atheist, yet self-proclaimed fellow traveller, he held god in some disregard for what he considered the humiliation of aging. Despite his years, Mr. Clarkes was burning with vitality until the end. He lived by himself in an old victorian farmhouse, down a long red dirt lane, in Belfast, Prince Edward Island. He greeted many mornings with a shot of fireball (to get the muses flowing), and spent most days in an outpouring of creative expression, as classical music boomed throughout the house. Up to the day before he died, he was working on his latest endeavour: weaving every poem he’d ever written into one epic yawp. It would have been a work of thousands of pages if completed.
Mr. Clarkes was one of the most successful painters in Canada at the peak of his career in the 1960s and 70s. He was represented by The Mira Godard Gallery in Montreal, the Jerrold Morris International Gallery and the Pollock Gallery in Toronto, The Fraser Gallery and The Ace Gallery in Vancouver, with numerous sold out shows. His paintings are in many of Canada’s top private and public collections such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, The Confederation Centre Art Gallery, and in Canadian Embassies (recently the Canadian Embassy in Spain). He was Director of Art / Artist in Residence at York University (cir. 1965) as well as Director of the Burnaby Art Gallery (1975).
Mr. Clarkes referred to himself as a “poor boy from the North End of Winnipeg”. Indeed, born in 1934, he was a child of the depression. His father Chester Clarkes lost his business in the crash and suffered a stroke. His mother Pauline held the family together by working in a factory. Clarkes was the third of four siblings and led a free if materially modest childhood. He was a precocious child who would often skip school to read philosophy and adventure novels. After seeing (and being profoundly moved by) Bambi in the cinema at the age of nine, the school allowed him two weeks off of class to paint Bambi murals throughout the halls.
At the age of seventeen, Clarkes attempted to work his way by ship to Paris with the aim of meeting Picasso. But the Montreal harbour froze solid that winter and he returned home to attend the Winnipeg School of Art. He later acquired a degree in Art History from the University of Toronto.
Clarkes lived in the neighbourhoods of Yorkville and later in the Annex in Toronto for thirty years (two doors down from the famed Jane Jacobs). He had an eye for design and a love of construction, and bought, renovated, and sold several houses throughout those years. Seeking fresh air and a wholesome environment for his daughter, Millefiore, after the death of his wife Rebecca, he moved to rural Prince Edward Island where he spent the following twenty five years living in relative seclusion. During this time he turned his voracious artistic energy toward the composition of classical music. One of Clarkes' major compositions, Amerika (libretto derived from Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel of the same title) is, “by special request of five of the Czech Republic's most distinguished composers” in the collection of the Czech Music Foundation Library in Prague. Clarkes wrote five symphonies, a Stabat Mater, and hundreds of Art Songs (lieder), one violin concerto and a dozen piano sonatas and string ensembles. He compiled six portfolios of songs: Lessons in Love, Songs of Hope and Gladness, Songs of Madness and Despair, Songs Metaphysical, Songs Irreverent, Foolish and Absurd, A Child's Songs, many set to his own lyrics.
Clarkes was also a poet. His poetic works include three epic narratives titled BeowulFreshtold, Words and Worlds For Leopold and Loeb, and The Imperfect Work of Seven Days (a Jeremiahic rant springing from the travesties at Tiananmen Square). He wrote two screenplays, Liam and Sarah Monteverdi in the Land of the Big Bugs (which he later turned into a children’s book) and The Abiding Passion of Amoretta Morningstar. Almost daily, Clarkes would send out an email to friends and acquaintances with a new aphorism attached: short, often irreverent, and searching insights into the mysteries of existence. These aphorisms, in his loose and wild scrawl, could be found on scraps of paper, the backs of telephone bills, and in journals in every room of his house.
He was compelled by the philosophy of economics, and wrote many essays on the topic. He considered himself a small s socialist and advocated for the reasonable redistribution of wealth, arguing that humans require strong institutions of welfare and justice, to counter our seeming universal tendency toward greed and cruelty. He was dismayed by the horrors that humanity has perpetrated upon itself. He fervently urged toward uplifting the best in our natures, while never looking away from the worst.
Prior to his art career, Clarkes was a reporter with the Toronto Bureau of British United Press and Editor of several Canadian Business Magazines specializing in engineering and construction.
Mr. Clarkes’ earliest memory was lying in a crib while his mother and her sisters sewed and conversed. He said he recalled clearly, the overwhelming urge to join in the conversation, but didn’t yet know yet how to speak. This urge to communicate, to share his vision of the world, was one of the foundational elements of his character. An urge that never abated throughout his life.
A fresh gust of enthusiasm for life seemed to befall him when least expected, in his 80s. He began to spend his winters in Ajijic, Mexico, where he took up the brush again and painted a new series of paintings in his studio there. He made new friends that brought companionship and comfort. He even made two last trips to his beloved Europe: visiting galleries to gaze upon the work of the masters. Though never without a critical eye.
In the last year of his life, The Confederation Centre Art Gallery mounted a solo retrospective exhibition of his artwork, published a catalogue of his paintings which included two essays by prominent Canadian curators, and hosted a concert of some of his compositions, accompanied by a spirited (as ever) art talk by the artist.