The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2016 > Shelf Life – The Ornaments Are Talking To Me

Shelf Life – The Ornaments Are Talking To Me

Clarke’s Cabinets of Time Lost, Curated by Mark Clarke
15 October - 12 February 2017 

Are you a collector or hoarder of treasured or favoured items? Does handling them trigger memories, whether happy or sad? How do you remember loved ones after they are gone?  

Mark Clarke’s innovative new exhibition challenges our perception of collecting and remembering, and art versus accumulation. In a series of surprisingly cheery assemblage sculptures Belfast born Mark ponders the theme of life, love and loss. Using familiar mantelpiece ornaments, junk shop tat and car boot treasures, these poetic interpretations of the homemade shrine explore dementia, obsession, good and bad taste, fine art versus outsider art, displacement behaviour and celebrity culture.  

Mark Clarke’s latest piece of work, that takes the form of five monumental, crowded shelves, was inspired by his mother, who died of Alzheimer's, and is a poetic reinterpretation of her homemade shrines. The idea for Clarke's vast assemblages came to him when clearing out the family house in Belfast after her death. The shelves are arranged in various themes: Dinnertime, Once Upon A Time, Time To Kill, Showtime and Prime Time and are made up of over 1000 disparate individual objects. Although no one piece is of any  particular financial value, every piece is imbued with imagined memories, a modern day momento mori. The objects that range from tourist dolls and China dogs to tambourines and paint tins, form an unexpected counterpoint to the fancy French collection of Joséphine Bowes, who collected her own possessions for the The Bowes Museum founded in the 19th century.

Belfast born Mark Clarke is an assemblage artist known for his complex 3D narratives that are a collage of anachronistic cultural references. Notable works include Clarke’s Cabinets of Cures commissioned by Wellcome Collection, Belfast Boy: Clarke’s Cabinet of Home, Heart and Hearth for The Holburne Museum and Clarke’s Cabinet of Eyries for Alexander McQueen. 

Clarke studied Visual Communications at Edinburgh College of Art. After graduation he worked on a wealth of media titles from The Guardian to Honey magazine. In the 1990’s he contributed to many TV and film projects with clients including Dreamworks Productions, BBC and Carlton Television. 

In 2009 he relocated to the west country to concentrate on more long-term art based projects. He works out of his studio overlooking Bristol and divides his time between his Somerset home, London and his native Belfast.

Related Events

Dementia Friendly Day, 11 November, 11.00 - 5.00,
Come and experience this exhibition on a quiet day in the Museum, with a higher level of lighting.

The Alzheimer’s Society: Singing for the Brain, 11 November, 10.30 - 12.00 
Members of the Barnard Castle Singing for the Brain group will be meeting for a special Remembrance Day singalong in the lovely setting of the Museum’s Jubilee Room. There will also be the opportunity to view this exhibition with Nicky Tulloch from The Alzheimer’s Society. Those of you who are interested or potentially interested in joining in with Singing for the Brain, or bringing a friend or relative to the group in the future are welcome to attend without paying Museum admission. 

Image Captions

DINNER TIME © John Taylor