Exploring the tools of coping: Gus Clarke
By Rhys TateGus Clarke and his son, Matthew, share an art studio in what was the eastern edge of the Fletcher Jones factory.
It’s a large room, originally painted in industrial whites and greys but now transformed by Matthew’s vivid, abstract canvases, which have jostled Gus into a corner under buckled sheets of masonite where the roof once leaked.
“Matt picked out his spot, then he asked me, does that spot work for you?” Gus points to the section of wall where his smaller pieces hang by pins and clips.
“Then, Dean (Montgomery, owner of the Fletcher’s building) fixed the entire roof and, you know what? It works. It all works.”Things working and not working is a theme that runs through Gus’ upcoming solo exhibition, The Coping Sore.
A coping saw is a tool with a D-shaped frame, used to cut curving paths through wood, and is considered notoriously difficult to handle without the blade straying from the cut line. Clarke’s works explore the metaphorical link between the coping saw and the management of human emotion.
“Before people had bandsaws and electric jigsaws, they had coping saws. Now, when you’re cutting, they’re buggers to keep straight.
“The better your fine motor skills, the better you are. If you’re not careful, it will jam, or it will go on a tangent to the line, but you can get it back on track. And people’s emotions are like that. We have to work to keep them close to the line, to stop them from veering in another direction from where we wanted to go,” Gus explains.
The Coping Sore is Gus’ first solo exhibition, after years of developing his art in group shows at South West TAFE.
“It’s true outsider art,” Outlaw Gallery director Barry Tate says, “very expressive, linked to his personal life and journey, and very successful at what it sets out to do.”
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