It is with great pleasure that I present this first retrospective survey of the life and work of Glenn Clark, who for over twenty years has worked here at the Penticton Art Gallery in a variety of capacities from art preparator, event coordinator, educator and curator. Through it all Glenn has also developed a parallel career as a visual artist having painted some of Penticton’s best known and much admired murals such as the Penticon Vees at the Brandenburg Gate on the side of the Elks Hall and the grape vines which grace the Penticton & Wine Country Visitors’ Information Centre. Over the past five years I have had the pleasure to work with Glenn and witness first hand his commitment not only to his visual arts practice but also to sharing his knowledge and passion for art with the youth of our community.
During this time he has completed numerous murals, built a studio, held countless exhibitions, designed wine labels, completed private commissions, mentored hundreds of children and countless artists, organized fundraisers, followed the footsteps of E.J. Hughes and completed hundreds of paintings, documenting the incredible beauty of our province. Needless to say, he is long overdue for a retrospective survey exploring the breadth of his artistic practice and it’s only fitting that we are able to present this here at the Penticton Art Gallery.
This exhibit reaches back to Glenn’s time at the University of Calgary where he graduated in 1991, just before be landed a job here at the then named Art Gallery of the South Okanagan. In one of his earliest self-portraits we see Glenn standing next to the artist Attila Richard Lukacs and in front of one of his major paintings of skinheads in Berlin. Here we see abrash young artist set to conquer the art world. It’s a fascinating snapshot in time and a wonderful document of art history capturing two artists in the prime of their youth, one whose star was on the rise and the contender looking to grab his own piece of the action. This painting serves as our point of departure and acts as a counterpoint for his latest self portrait showing the artist advanced in age, wisdom and more comfortable with his lot in life.
These early figurative paintings were created in the studio using photographs and form an interesting personal narrative with Glenn offering up his friends, family and himself as the subject. In these works Glenn hones his technical ability creating monumental works one could walk into. The majority of these works have not been exhibited before and it will be interesting to gather them all together and view them in context with each other and in relationship to his landscape work and his most recent figurative work. These early works form a significant body of work and provide a unique insight not only into his creative process but the Canadian experience. The works are not unlike those created by the Chilliwack based painter Chris Woods and offer an equally compelling view of the world.
From here we tag along with the artist as he treks across the province painting en plein air. Glenn would take these field sketches back to his studio where he would pin them upon the wall selecting a small group of them up into finished works. While he is well known for these works now, Glenn found a renewed sense of focus, passion and purpose when he set off in search of E.J. Hughes and the views made famous by his brush. It was a real treat to have been able to meet up with Glenn while he was in Kaslo and for the first time I was able to see Glenn the painter alive and in action out in the field. This body of work formed the basis of an exhibition held at the Lloyd Gallery and was the subject of a catalogue which they produced for the occasion. It was a homage and tribute to one of British Columbia’s truly unique visionaries and a tribute to Glenn and his indomitable spirit.
While landscape painting has long been an interest of Glenn’s the majority of his time, focus and interest remained with his figurative paintings. It has only been recently that he has discovered a passion for the great outdoors, its wide expanses and the constant challenges which come from documenting the ever shifting light, weather and seasons. Glenn has always been fascinated by the technical side of painting and working en plein air provided him with the perfect opportunity and subject with which he could fully explore the properties of paint. For Glenn these paintings have become extensions of his self-portraits as they mark the passing of time, a connection to the landscape and ultimately tell as much about the artist as they do the world in which he is working. These works are a celebration of life, nature and the human spirit.
The most recent works bring us full circle and serve as a checkpoint at this halfway point in the career of the artist and provides not only the public but also the artist with the luxury of seeing firsthand the trajectory of his development over an extended period of time. For many this is the first opportunity to see many of these works and for Glenn, it’s a rare chance to look back and see all these works gathered and displayed in one place where they can converse and play off each other. It will be interesting to watch the public’s reaction when presented with the full breadth of artwork created over the course of two decades.
It’s been an amazing gift to work with Glenn over the past five years and during that time he has constantly been a source of inspiration watching him share his passion for art with the youth of the community. While on the surface this exhibit is a celebration of art, it’s far more than that as one can’t separate the artist from the art which he has created. These works are as much about Glenn as they are the objects, landscapes and people he has documented over the years. Glenn shows us what can come about when one combines dedication with passion and determination and not only is the gallery incredibly fortunate to have had Glenn working here over the past two decades, the City of Penticton and by extension the Okanagan Valley are all far richer for his contributions to our collective cultural fabric. Our arts community could not have asked for a better ambassador.
Glenn Clark was born in 1959 in Kelowna BC receiving a diploma in Fine Arts (distinction) from the Okanagan College in 1988 and a BFA from the University of Calgary in 1991. After graduation, he moved to Penticton where he continues to paint out of his new studio and thankfully continues to work here at the Penticton Art Gallery.