Tony Clark

Design for a Mural Painting, 1986
acrylic on paper
150 x 114 cm (paper); 159.5 x 123 cm (framed)

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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Acquired by Colin & Elizabeth Laverty, Sydney on 24 June 1988

Design for a Mural Painting (1986) comes from a body of Tony Clark’s work from the mid to late 1980s where he began his ongoing exploration of the boundaries and histories of landscape painting. Beginning with an interest in the “sacro-idyllic” landscapes found in the ruins of Pompeii – history’s earliest extant decorative landscapes – Clark created small, postmodern oil paintings from around 1982 that borrowed heavily from the subjects and aesthetic of these ancient paintings.  From there, Clark began creating his own abstract paintings, titled playfully as designs for murals like the frescoes he had studied, but that were never intended to be realised as full-scale works.

The form in Design for a Mural Painting is architectural in nature, like a silhouette of an ancient Roman rotunda, but remains indefinite, the work as a whole rendered in paint that is splashed, dripped and sprayed onto the paper.

  • Design for a Mural Painting

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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).