Mark Clarke’s latest piece of work – a collection of five painted, crowded shelves which explore and examine the themes of life, love and loss – opens at The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle on Saturday 15 October 2016.
‘When I was clearing out the family home in Northern Ireland following the death of my mother from Alzheimer’s I was intrigued to find how the positioning of her much loved, seemingly ephemeral mantelpiece ornaments appeared to display a puzzling sense of shared social hierarchy, with the placement of each accommodating a definite power structure, theme and look,’ Clarke explained.
‘Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease yet somehow through the fog of confusion, isolation, language and speech problems, loss of dignity, paranoia and diminished memory my mother was able to create a small recognisable world. Sufferers are often homebound during the middle and late stages of the disease and this is when she made her shelves. Trying to make sense of this thinking was the poignant source for this series of assemblages.’
The shelves created by Clarke are not a literal translation but a poetic interpretation of his mother’s homemade shrine; a tribute to vanished memory and impermanence that question our individual notions of value, worth and meaning. A melee of modern day memento mori layered with suggested nuance, heartfelt sentiment and some wit.
The title SHELF LIFE highlights the indeterminable length of a life, the sell by date beyond which we ourselves become unfit for purpose. The installation also explores the concepts of good and bad taste, collecting, the length and dismantling of a life, fine art versus outsider art, displacement behaviour and obsession.