Jamaal Clarke is a figurative artist from San Diego CA.
He has a BA in Creative Writing/Literature from UCSD, and has studied drawing/painting at Grand Central Atelier and The Art Students League of New York.
I became fascinated with the exchange of self between artist and sitter first as an art model myself, and then as an artist. Successful figurative painting from life merges the me and the other, where the sitter passes into the artist and is expressed through the body of the painter onto the canvas. You and me become a one, and I find this crumbling of the illusion of an independent self, through another person, intimate and beautiful.
When I paint I am mostly conscious of the formal elements. My primary concerns are first and foremost the accuracy of the drawing in terms of likeness to the sitter, then creating the illusion of three dimensions through value control, and finally the hue, chroma, and temperature manipulation that results in living and active flesh in my painting. Although formal, the rendering of a human is actually the rendering of everything. Time is perceived in relation to our story, the universe is felt in relation to our scale and our place, the awe of life and uncertainty of death are considered by us about us, nothing concrete or abstract matters for its own sake but is always in relation to us, and I believe that these preoccupations and their truths are captured in my figures.
Figures in my work are created in two ways, most of my paintings are painted from life, but when I am struggling to find a model I will work without reference. When painting from life the figures capture a mindfulness in relation to the physical setting that hosts it. Models wait, as time passes, as their lives pass, as their mind waxes and wanes in and out of banality, but its when they settle into themselves and inhabit their “beingness” that I can capture what I want, which is awareness of presence in space. When I work without reference I look to paint figures that feel as real as possible. They inhabit a world that they don't totally understand, nor do they totally understand how they got there, but they are resigned to participate. They are like the viewer only because we project our temporal condition onto them, but because their time is frozen, they are only a mimetic approximation of being.
Showing touch through the brushstrokes is also an important character in my work. My paintings aren’t about me at all, but I do believe that it is important for the viewer to be able to see that a person made “this’ with their hands, that the painting is an overt record of being as series of gestures poured into ‘this” vessel. Along with touch recording the hand of the painter, showing brushstrokes as fragments is a more penetrating way to describe matter and identity, which are not truly solid forms but only appear to be. So the texture of my figures’ flesh aims at describing the beautiful contradiction between emptiness and form, the fact of now and reality of impermanence.