Exploring the tools of coping: Gus Clarke

Posted on February 29, 2016 | 1 comment

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Warrnambool artist Gus Clarke will hold his first exhibition at Outlaw Gallery, exploring the metaphors between human emotion and work tools. Image: Rhys Tate.

Rhys Tate 250This edition we welcome writer RHYS TATE to the Bluestone Magazine fold. Rhys is an editor, teacher and writer who has returned to Warrnambool after a couple of decades in Melbourne spent largely on the Monash Freeway. More available at www.rhystate.com Rhys will be checking in regularly with what’s happening at the Outlaw Gallery, Fletcher Jones complex, Flaxman St, W’bool. Hours 11-4 daily except Mondays.

By Rhys Tate

Gus 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.”


One of the delicate works on paper featured in Gus Clarke’s first exhibition, The Coping Sore. Image: Rhys Tate.

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.

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“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.”


For Gus Clarke, human emotions are akin to a coping saw: “We have to work to keep them close to the line, to stop them from veering in another direction..” Image: Rhys Tate.

The Coping Sore launches at Outlaw Gallery, Fletcher Jones, Flaxman St, on Friday 4 March at 6pm. Gallery open daily 11-4 except Mondays.

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1 Comment

  1. Fantastic Gus Clarke….This show is gonna be great!! Do you have any COPING SORES for sale?? Never know when they might come in handy!! Congratulations…Dig “RAW”

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