Artist, singer, writer, Leroy Clarke is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s finest contributors to the creative industries. Self-taught, Clarke’s prowess as a visual artist grew from a compunction to “see and, to go deeper than surfaces allowed” as he used his life experiences to shape the worldview to which he, as artist champions today. He was nurtured in the security of community; his study was as casual as play, a hobby from which he has not really awaken!
Leve 2016, with the theme Luxury Meets Lifestyle, brought together great minds and talent. The works of LeRoy Clarke were featured at Leve in 2016.
The paintings of LeRoy Clarke seem like magnifications of his own calligraphy. The huge canvasses are covered with finely involuted patterns that on close examination resemble scripts, tragic doodles that subconsciously follow their own design. Clarke’s drawings seem to grow out of an inevitability as if a tortured subconscious dictated their automatic line. His books of poems are designed in this way too, the handwriting of the poem springing from the same source as the lines of his drawing. Not many artists have worked like this. Offhand, one thinks of [William] Blake, whose vision demanded
this simultaneous expression of word and form, and of course, classic Oriental art. Word and shape become totemic in Clarke’s painting-poetry, his painted forms are rigid, sculptural, objects that are votive in their tribal rigidity. One does not think of ‘style’ where his work is concerned. The style is the vision and that is relentless and whole, it has suffered from no influences, it only releases associations, but these associations go deeper than the surface of art. They spring deep and grip the tribal memory, they clench with a pain that comes close to insufferable, an anger that is shrill with its horror of injustice. Their power is overwhelming and the raw fire of many of the poems complements them. We should acknowledge the scalding truths they shout at us, otherwise, they remain ‘art.’ Like Blake’s, they are visionary tracts.