Forty-six years ago, Ann Clarke, a naïve young artist, canvases under one arm and two small children under the other, left the rainy shores of England for the prairies of Alberta. As a graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art in London and having already exhibited her paintings in several prestigious competitions for contemporary art in Britain, she was in search of adventure and new horizons.
Not only did she stay in Edmonton for sixteen years but contributed to that city’s reputation as a dynamic arts community, and developed a unique presence in contemporary painting in Canada.
Since then the necessity of earning a living through teaching has moved her to many regions of the country, from coast to coast. Most recently she worked in the Visual Arts Department at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Throughout the years, many spent in relative isolation, she continued to paint and exhibit wherever and whenever she could. Now retired from teaching, she has a summer studio in Twillingate, Newfoundland and a year-round living and work space in a historical commercial building in Newburgh, Ontario.
Clarke’s work is predominantly painting and drawing, with occasional printmaking and sculpture as well as collage and installation. Her subject matter is overwhelmingly abstract, but also contains references to her life and travels, world events and memory, making connections, contrasts and comparisons. Using techniques of layering, her paintings refer to depth and illusion as well as to the lateral relationships across the surface.
For Clarke, the journey is more important than arrival, a destination is merely the start of further exploration. Her working process combines experimentation, intuition, trial and error, a deep love for materials and their potential, and a comprehensive knowledge of the work of others who have followed a similar path.
Clarke has taught at many institutions in Canada, including The Banff Centre, University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and Queen’s and Guelph universities. From 1992 she taught in the Department of Visual Arts at Lakehead University and retired in 2009 as Professor Emeritus. Since 1969 Ann Clarke has had over thirty solo exhibitions in Canada and since 1966 has shown work in more than ninety group shows in Britain, Canada and the U.S.A. Her work is in public and private collections in Canada, Britain, U.S.A. and Australia. In 2008 Clarke was elected to membership of the Royal Canadian Academy of Art.