Sections from Clark’s Myriorama,
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
8 panels: 30.5 x 23 cm (each); 30.5 x 182.9 cm (overall)
signed 'Tony Clark' and stamped by the artist 'Section from Clark’s Myriorama' (on the reverse of each panel)
Tony Clark’s Myriorama series is a project of more than three decades that the artist began in 1985. Literally meaning "ten thousand scenes", Myriorama was first coined by the English artist John Clark (no relation), who created a series of landscape cards that could be conjoined or arranged in any order to create new views and combinations. With just 16 cards, a staggering 28 billion unique combinations could be created along a shared horizon line or in disjointed grids, a pursuit which became a popular children’s game in the early nineteenth century.
Clark was struck both by the playfulness of the concept, but also its conceptual implications.
The artist has said that there is something of Pop Art in the replicability of the Myriorama, and that the project is best conceived as a modular or even a sculptural series, like the work of American minimalists Donald Judd and Carl Andre.
The ability to arrange the works as one, introduces an abstract and conceptual edge to an otherwise representational landscapes. In the same way, there is a blend of irony and admiration for the landscape genre that Clark has worked with for so long. “I like starting with a truism, or a cliché or a tautology,” the artist has said of the series. “Irony is a subordinate element in the project. It is part of the structure of the work, part of the initial set-up, the machine. By having it there in that way it then leaves me free to develop an attachment to the imagery and see what I can do with it…In any case, I think there is always something underneath ironic gestures. It’s just if people own up to it or not.”
Image courtesy of the artist
In a career that has traversed landscape and abstract painting, Tony Clark is one of Australia's leading conceptual artists, renowned for his decades-long series that examine popular cultural phenomena through history. Wayne Tunnicliffe, head of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, has written of Clark's work "Pop, classicism and conceptual art have converged to provide an echo-chamber where each strand could comment on the other".
Born in Canberra in 1954, Tony Clark currently lives and works in Sicily, Italy and Essen, Germany. Raised in London and Rome, and after formative years in Melbourne’s experimental art and music scenes with the likes of Nick Cave and Howard Arkley, Clark studied art history but was a self-taught painter. A self-defined “punk classicist”, for over four decades Clark has sought to challenge conventional art historical narratives and with large-scale compositions of explosive colour and archetypal forms. Prominent series have included his “sacro-idyllic” landscapes of the early 1980s, drawn from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, his Chinoiserie series (since 1987) in which he made plasticine miniatures of pagodas and painted them with bold, expressive backgrounds, and his Myriorama series (since 1985) in which he has created hundreds of landscape panels that can be arranged and interchanged freely, just like the Victorian children's game of the same title.
Tony Clark has exhibited for four decades and features in major public and private collections in Australia and abroad. A major retrospective, Tony Clark – Public and Private Paintings 1982-1998, was held at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, 1998. Clark also featured in the prestigious dOCUMENTA IX, Kassel, Germany (1992).