Private collection, Melbourne
Professor Roger Benjamin collection, Sydney
'Wood/Marsh and Tony Clark', City Gallery, Melbourne, 30 April - 30 May, 1992
'Tony Clark: Public and Private Paintings
1982-1998', Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne,
19 May - 12 July 1998
'Arts Diary', 'Vogue Living', May 1992, llus.p. 138-139,
R Benjamin, 'Mysteries of the Villa Sino-Romana',
'Art + Text', Vol. 44, January 1993, pp 34-41; illus,p.41
M Delany, R McKenzie, G Forsyth, 'Tony Clark: Public and Private Paintings 1982-1998', Melbourne, 1998 (exh cat), illus. p.26
Tony Clark's astonishing 'Kufic Landscape' (1991) is a painting on canvas board comprised of nine panels. Stretching 3 metres in length, this sprawling landscape unravels before the viewer like an ancient scroll. It is part of a wider series of work by the same name that the artist began in 1991, at the height of the global hysteria around Islam. Troubled by these sentiments, Clark created this seminal piece as a kind of homage to the richness of Islamic culture.
Sitting at the intersection of abstraction and figuration, 'Kufic Landscape' is a sophisticated hybrid of cultural references. Clark appropriates the traditional calligraphy of 8th century Arabic script, marrying these calligraphic lines with forms from the natural environment such as palms, flowers and trees. Masterfully painted to create the impression of a decorative low-relief carving, the work complicates the conventional hierarchical relations between painting, sculpture and the decorative arts.
Professor Roger Benjamin has described Clark as a "tourist in traditional cultures, fascinated by the idea that vegetal form, at some distant point… may of itself inscribe a literary message, a precise intellectual content". In 'Kufic Landscape' the artist sets up a compelling visual and conceptual dialogue between two antithetical art camps: the traditional Western representation of landscape and Islam's prohibition on creating likeness.
Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney