Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke

  • Posted: Oct 3, 2011

3 October 2011

Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke


About to open at the Iziko South African National Gallery is ‘Listening to Distant Thunder: The Art of Peter Clarke’, which runs from 20 October 2011 – 19 February 2012. The exhibition is aimed at honouring Clarke’s life, work and contribution to art in South Africa. It is a real celebration for the people of Cape Town and the residents of Ocean View in particular.

Clarke was born in Simon’s Town in 1929 and worked in the Simon’s Town dockyard for a number of years. He embarked on his pursuit as a full-time professional artist in 1956.
During his career, spanning six decades, Clarke has recorded many aspects of South African life.

Although he and his family were forcibly removed from their home in Simon’s Town during the apartheid era, his art is without bitterness. Often humorous, it is rather a scrutiny and celebration of life in all its aspects, and an expression of his ongoing delight in ordinary, everyday experiences.            

The exhibition tells the story of Clarke’s work over the decades. It includes his early pieces, made as a schoolboy: works that reflect the social disruption of the Cape Flats, as well as his prints, for which he is renowned. Also on show are works from the late 1960s that refer to the trauma of forced removals from Simon’s Town, and the ambitious paintings he began making during his trips to America, Norway and France in the 1970s.

In addition, the exhibition highlights his late works that look back on the apartheid years and celebrate the new South Africa.

Clarke was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga (silver) by President Mbeki in 2005 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Through this exhibition and the accompanying book, curators Philippa Hobbs and Elizabeth Rankin hope to show the viewer why these accolades are well deserved.

The culmination of seven years of extensive research, the book traces Clarke’s evolution and is a comprehensive account of his art.

The exhibition has been made possible by contributions from the Grand West Casino Cultural and Heritage Trust and the Standard Bank, as well as private donors

Selected works - Listening to distant thunder (HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST)
Peter Clarke, Listening to distant thunder, 1970. Oil and sand on board, 610 x 764 mm. Collection: Johannesburg Art Gallery

Peter Clarke, 2009. Photograph: Russell Scott

Peter Clarke painting Woman with goats in the front room of the Clarke family home at Waterfall Flats, Simon’s Town, 1961. While the fate of that work is unknown, the oil painting in the background, Coming and going, a work that Clarke made in 1960, is in a private collection. (Photograph: David Baker)

Peter Clarke, Flute music, 1960. Oil on canvas. 650 x 440 mm. Private collection



Iziko Museums (Iziko) operates 12 national museums in Cape Town.  The museums that make up Iziko have their own history and character, presenting extensive art, social and natural history collections which reflect our diverse African heritage.  Iziko is a public entity and non-profit organisation which brings together these 12 museums under a single governance and leadership structure.  The organisation allows *free access to all individuals on commemorative days, as well as unlimited free access to individuals aged 18 and under (excluding the Castle of Good Hope and Planetarium).

COMMEMORATIVE DAYS – FREE ENTRANCE (excluding Iziko Planetarium and Castle of Good Hope)

  • Human Rights Day: 21 March
  • Freedom Day: 27 April
  • International Museum Day: 25 May
  • Africa Day: 25 May
  • Youth Day: 16 June
  • National Women’s Day: 9 August
  • Heritage Week: 19 – 25 September
  • National Aids Awareness Day: 1 December
  • Emancipation Day: 1 December
  • Day of Reconciliation: 16 December

Issued by: Melody Kleinsmith
Communications Coordinator: Institutional Advancement, Iziko Museums
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 481 3861     
Facsimile: +27 (0) 21 481 9620
Cell: 073 107 4955     


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