David Clarke Reimagines Silver at a New Swedish Exhibition
British silversmith David Clarke has gained international attention for his unique and whimsical approach to this venerable art form. “I have a passion for metal,” he says. “There is a resistance from it—you play with it, coax it, fight it. But I take the traditions of silversmithing to surprising extremes. This absolute willingness to experiment and play inappropriately is core to my work.”
Glenn Adamson, head of research at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, calls Clarke “one of the strongest silversmiths currently working and easily the most prominent avant-garde figure in the medium.” Now, audiences can view the artist’s first solo exhibition, “In Flux,” beginning early next month at Nutida Svenskt Silver in Stockholm, Sweden.
Clarke re-creates objects by modifying not only their shape, but also their interpretation. The results often border on the dreamlike: “The exhibition’s mood is slightly unnerved, slightly surreal, but intriguing, a place you’re drawn into but not sure you would want to go.”
While poking holes in the inflated cultural value of silver by challenging longstanding assumptions about it, Clarke is also aware that he is part of a craft that is very much relevant to British history. “It was not uncommon for silversmiths of yesteryear to melt down objects to make new pieces,” he says. “I think this is a wonderful part of silversmithing.”
Clarke, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1997, has given lectures all over the world on the craft, which he is reimagining for 21st-century minds. “I am very concerned about the discipline’s future,” he says, “and so want it not to stand still, pickled in aspic, but to be relevant, vibrant and meaningful to a contemporary audience. It is good that it challenges the viewer’s ideas about what silversmithing is.”