For Judith Clute’s show, 16 May to 22 May 2019, at the Camden Image Gallery website, these words by Joe Haldeman: “Of course a basic element I’ve always loved in Clute’s work is the easy marriage of abstract freedom with realist skill. Freedom within a frame, always. And realism with an eldritch sense of what is real.”
So Tell Me I’m Wrong 2017 oil …. 435 x 435 mm
Just in time for my “Masques of the Disappeared” Exhibition at Camden Image Gallery, 2019, a special note by Morgan Doyle who owns two of my paintings. Morgan is a master etcher, and a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.
The Shape of “a”
“It took me months to work them out, years in fact to know how to get into them, read them, make sense of them and still I grappled, glanced and grimaced. What to do? How to solve the mystery, the complexity that lies within a world of worlds created by the artist Judith Clute, a Canadian British artist living and working in London. Truth be told she doesn’t make it easy but then she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Man Gave Names V2 2017 plate size .. 160 x 180 mm
I mean it all starts with the shape of an image that recurs again and again in her work. Why was it there? I didn’t want to ask her. I brought in the forensics that are my brain cells. I tried to work it out, not because I had to but because I wanted to. I had the evidence right in front of me in two paintings that I own by Judith. I stared at them… the peaceful chimp, sitting, staring, unaware that in the background is the angry face of a man who, shall we say looks anything but peaceful. It doesn’t take a genius to work out who is going to win that war, a world that definitely relies on the shape of “a”, a wormhole into her work. Titled “Footpads of Darwin: Heart Throb”, a typically allusive Judith title, which as so many times in her work subverts the viewers reading of her work. I mean to an artist like Judith the meaning was obvious all along. Isn’t it all about war, about humanity, and inhumanity, maybe just changing how we all look at the world?
I am not a writer, a wordsmith. I merely observe the world outside, but Judith’s work confines me within the borders of her paintings. They are borders she suggests without words but through the silence she invites the viewer to share. The more active her work is, the more intense her work will be in its relationship with the world. “Night and Silence” comes to mind.
Cavé, first in the “Night and Silence” trilogy 2016 oil … 805 x 655 mm
She lives in a world of books, writers and words but Judith selects the words to be used within her paintings with patience and time and a quick glance outwards, from within the world of silence, of odd relationships, the world indeed of men. She wants her work to express the pathos of their relationship with the world and maybe her world, in the silence, that noiseless space when the world sleeps and the noiseless spaces she creates come to life. The girl in my painting emerges from captivity, past the barbed wire and past the camp from which she has been spared. A skull floats behind like a cavity of thought, the thing that maybe provokes our humanity.
When I first saw Judith’s work I glanced from a distance when she printed in a studio that we shared. I glanced but looked away, but I’d always glance back and see the beauty she creates. The longest sentence according to Samuel Beckett needs no grammar as it stops your flow of thought. Judith keeps me thinking and no full stops.”
… Morgan Doyle RE, 2019
Social Contract .. 2017 .. oil .. 760 510 mm
In preparation for the exhibition – http://www.camden-image-gallery.co.uk/ – of Judith Clute’s work, Masques of the Disappeared, opening 16 May 2019, Nick Clay has presented the following words. Incidentally he and Di Clay own several Judith Clute paintings.
“…. We had only to distinguish what we belongd to from what we we did not belong to to cast off all busyness and return to the work which I speak of here as a honeycomb composed of inscrutable pictures, a shield of discrete poems which may absorb or cast back all meanings, remaining undisturbed. Hence our love of René Magritte. For his paintings resemble the cells of such bees.”
Robert Duncan, from “At Home”
“And for the same reasons, I would add, do I love the paintings of Judith Clute. Hers are works that float multiple meanings across an impeccable surface, images ancient and modern, representational and symbolic, juxtaposed always in a deftly balanced harmony. A wide range of reference, a refined sense of colour gained from years of astute observation and above all, a mastery of composition which always simultaneously satisfies and surprises. And then there are the etchings….!”
…. Nick Clay, 2019
The Fire Next Time 2015 .. oil .. 1045 x 792 mm
Polder: a Festscrift for John Clute and Judith Clute, edited by Farah Mendlesohn, Old Earth Books, 2006. ……………….Contributors: Tom Disch, Damien Broderick, Rob Latham, Sean McMullen, Candas Jane Dorsey, Joe Haldeman, Geoff Ryman, Scott Bradfield, Paul Kincaid, Brian Aldiss, William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Ian Watson, Neil Gaiman, Javier A Martinez, Andrew M Butler, Jack Womack, Gary K Wolfe, M John Harrison, Edward James, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ellen Datlow, Elizabeth Hand, Graham Sleight, Roz Kaveney, Pamela Zoline.
Interzone: Science Fiction and Fantasy, no. 188 2003. Paul Brazier, feature article on Judith Clute, “Still Turning Moifs Upside Down”. Cover is a detail from Clute’s Meniscus, 2000.
Dick Jude analyses Judith Clute’s work in Fantasy Art Masters 2002, pages 38 to 49.
Paul Barnett analyses Judith Clute’s work in an article, “Surrealism Reversed”, in Paper Tiger Fantasy Art Gallery 2002, pages 30 to 35.
Suzanne Perkins won a place for Judith Clute here on page 146 of the Association of Illustrators, 1985. She was the commissioning editor at The Women’s Press.
The text of Pamela Zoline’s note written for Judith Clute’s Parkway Focus solo show in 1976.
Clute’s paintings are full of enjoyment of the fact of vision, the delectation of the facts of the visual world, but not simply. They are full of meaning, yet resist linear interpretation; like all good paintings they are not reducible into their “stories”; they remain intact in the face of theory or analysis.
While they have sometimes been mistaken for cousins to the New Realists, a closer look shows up the mistake; these paintings are full of different voices, different grammatical levels of visual language speaking within the same work. Note in the “Great Chain of Being Show” the weeping face and the clown make-up quoting each other, the diagrammatic comic of the bottom, the “fast’ car, and the wonderful “primitive” heralds at the top, with the gorgeous dragon who is as though fashioned out of an exquisite jalebi (orange Indian sweet); it is a multilingual work, a veritable George Steiner of a painting. And again, watch in “Safe!”as the cams click on teeth across the surface of the painting, a shameless device, body-Englishing the composition, flaunting its wit.
Another way you can tell that this isn’t new realism (Bite the coin, Zeb, see if it’s real gold) is by looking for where the action is; more clearly, the delights are not the naive and blissful trompe l’oeil look-ma-it’s-like-a-snapshot-of-a-real-rose-gee-smell-it; the delights are in the calling up of appearances and versions of vision, translation, quotation, the camera’s view (almost) and Ingres’s view, and look it wasn’t really the camera’s eye at all because look at the painterly solution of the problems. And there’s one of the keys, for painterly designates that epiphany which gives the business of painting its grip in the re-establishment, with each new vision, of a notation adequate for the translation of three dimensions into two. This re-establishment of notation is epiphanous. When it doesn’t happen the painting is wallpaper. It happens here.
The Great Chain of Being Show .. 1976 .. acrylic .. 1485 x 1245 mm.
Clute’s paintings are full of women. As we would expect from this very sophisticated painter there is no haranguing, and not a trace of manifesto, but one wonders if the work of making women visible to themselves, giving them a whole face, is not part of the work that is going on here, quietly and in one of those professions in which, as they keep telling us, there hasn’t been a first-rate practitioner; not yet.
One useful heuristic for looking at paintings is the divisions of All Paintings into two categories, those that nourish and conjure, and those that do not flinch. Rembrandt, Rubens, DeKooning, Watteau, Rauschenberg, Picasso belong in the first category; Piero, Vermeer, Juan Gris, Van Eyck, Mondrian, Velasquez, Ingres in the second; it’s like a division between warm and cool, but not quite as simple, and it is as procrustean as all but the best heuristics, because where does Matisse fit and where is Cezanne? Still it sheds an ounce or two of light, and one thing about this painter is clear, Clute’s paintings do not flinch.
So, we have paintings with a surface which is tactful but refuses to be charming; and a form which becomes increasingly more eloquent, able to take on more layers, as the painter progresses. The earlier paintings in this group, “Child’s play”, “Engaging”, “American Alice”, are now visible, with the hindsight provided by the more recent works, as exercises in the mastery of themes, of themes made as and through visual elements. It is exciting to see the taking on of powers as the painter becomes increasingly adept, as though with a playwright we could say: here we see her taking on the ironic voice, here the droll, the witty, the tragic, the romantic, the primitive, the voice of fashion, the creak of tumbrils in Arcadia; and they are all taken on through the visual, conversing within each painting, and they are legitimate cohabiters. If we as observers wonder about point of view, well, what with the new novel and the suspect narrator, banana skins of modernism, that’s the fun of the 20th century, n’est pas? As they say in Paris, France.
Parkway Focus …. Exhibition: 24 September – 15 October, 1976
Triad Regional Arts Centre … Exhibition: 6 – 25 May, 1974
One Sac Indenticals, sol 111 .. 1973 .. acrylic .. 640 x 995 mm
Judith Clute and Pamela Zoline had a joint show at the London New Arts Lab, Robert Street, in June 1970. Here’s the June issue of Studio International: