Valerie Clarke is a mixed media artist who works predominately with natural materials. Based in Trafford, Valerie has worked in further education for many years and undertakes residencies, schools projects, commissions and collaborations. Her interest has recently expanded to consider society on a wider scale and in the contrast of sociological perspectives, focusing on the intimate, subconscious world of the individual.
Valerie will be exhibiting as part of the Sale Arts Trail which takes place this weekend alongside artists from Sale and beyond.
Q1. Your work brings presence and structure to ephemeral materials such as soil and hay. How do these processes come about and how important is experimentation in your work?
The materials I use may be unassuming yet they are fundamental to the work. I have always been fascinated by growth and decay so this aspect of the materials feeds into the end results and I like the sense of impermanence which reflects our human condition. I explore our connection with the landscape we inhabit and thus the use of natural materials is key.
However, I do sometimes experiment in introducing less obvious materials such as glass and rubber which have a natural base but push the processes in other directions. The process of experimentation is equally important as this reflects the human state; we are shaped by our experiences. Sometimes the effects of a process can be surprising and aspects like the temperature can make a significant difference to the result. I love this part of my work as sometimes it leads to unusual juxtapositions.
Q2. Your figurative and site specific works offers a real sense of intimacy and I wanted to ask how important this connection with the viewer is to the making process? What have you been recently working on?
I like to offer the viewer a new way of looking at materials which we may take for granted as part of our environment. When I work in situ it is important to me that the work is truly connected to that place which involves getting a feel for the place and how people experience it, be that in the present or in investigating the history of the site, which I find particularly interesting. The viewer will draw their own conclusions about the work and I only facilitate a response; each viewer brings their own experiences which will inform a personal reaction.
Recently I have been working on two series; one exploring the traces of possible ‘presences’ in places, be that real or imaginary, and is enabling me to draw on psychological aspects of the human experience as well as the physical. The other body of work concerns the layers of experiences which shape our lives. This second series may take me into the use of man-made materials which will be a possible new direction for me.
Q3. It’s the first Sale Arts Trail this weekend which features your larger scale pieces alongside a whole host of other artists from Sale and the local area. What work are you showing?
For Sale Arts Trail I have maintained the use of natural materials in the pieces. I have been exploring other perspectives of the human experience in that I am also looking at thought processes. This work includes some pieces which abstract the figure and questions aspects of humanity. I believe I was also partly influenced by thinking about war, particularly the First World War and its impact on a whole generation. I had recently been re-reading Vera Brittain’s ‘Testament of Youth’ and I think that this has certainly fed into the work.
Sale Arts Trail kicks off Friday 11th July at Sale Waterside and continues across the weekend at a range of venues, Valerie’s pieces can be seen at Sale Waterside until 28th July alongside a host of artists and makers, including fellow Bankley resident, Lucy Harvey. Check out the Sale Arts Trail page for more information: http://www.facebook.com/saleartstrail & on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/saleartstrail