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RIP Peter Clarke (1929-2014)

Peter Clarke, one of South Africa’s most versatile and talented artists, has died.

Clarke was born in Simon’s Town in Cape Town in 1929, and passed away yesterday, 13 April, aged 84.

He worked as a dockworker before becoming a professional artist in the mid-1950s, and was best known for his printmaking and woodcuts, although he more recently worked with collage. He also wrote essays, short stories and poetry. In an interview with Artthrob in 2003, Clarke joked: “Had I been triplets, it would have made it much easier because each could have his own job. There are times when I go through a writing phase and there are times for phases of picture-making but there is never a dull moment.”

Watch a video of Clarke talking about his work at the Institute of International Visual Arts in London last year:

In 2007, Issue 64 of Carapace was dedicated to Clarke, to mark his 78th birthday on 1 June 2007. “Knowledge”, a woodcutting, featured on the cover:


The same issue contained his poem “Self Portrait: Aged 14″:

Self Portrait: Aged 14

Journalist and writer Herman Lategan published this tribute on Facebook:

He was also mourned by many on Twitter:

Image courtesy of NLA Design and Visual Arts


Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    April 14th, 2014 @12:27 #

    I met him just the once - but once was enough to leave deep impression on me. He was wise and droll - above all he had soul.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    April 14th, 2014 @14:14 #

    A long life, but still such a loss. At a retrospective at SANG a few years ago, what amazed me was his historical reach -- one of the few to document life in Simonstown before the hideousness of forced removals. His vision stretched back to encompass WW2, and all the convulsions, political and social that followed. And yet his work remains intimate, embedded in the work of others -- I wish I could find and post the bookplates he did for Richard Rive, the book covers he did for Ravan? Alex La Guma? He's in George Hallett's lovely Portraits of African Writers, a wonderful image of him listening, eyes closed, to a chiming bell. RIP.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    April 15th, 2014 @11:11 #

    I met Peter Clarke while working at the Centre for the Book, in about 2002 I think - at the launch of the Community Publishing Project, we held a 'one day only' exhibition of different kinds of small scale publishing: Small press, self-published books, literary magazines, handmade books and artists's books. Peter Clarke generously came along with a couple of his beautiful handmade books as art, and exhibited them. I was quite new in Cape Town and was wowed by his work. And the creativity of much of the other work shown.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    April 16th, 2014 @12:04 #

    Quite recently there was a wonderful exhibition of his work at the National Gallery. The handmade books were really amazing. And a short film interview too - wise, droll and soulful is exactly how he came across. I have one of his beautiful woodcuttings, but haven't been able to frame yet, hopefully soon.


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