Acknowledgement by Leonard McComb R.A. February 2008

Background: Slade School of Fine Art, London

In the late nineteen fifty’s and early sixties David Clapham, Ulrich Niemeyer, and I, were fellow students together in the sculpture studios of the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Sir William Coldstream was the Slade Professor, and E.H.Gerrard the Professor of Sculpture, with F.E.McWilliam and Reg Butler as occasional visiting sculpture tutors. Throughout the Slade, both in painting and sculpture the study was focused totally around the human figure and the life room.
There were supporting lectures in Anatomy by JZ Young on the ‘Life of the Elephant’, perspective lectures by S.Carter, Art History lectures by E.H.Gombrich and his colleague L.D. Ettingler. There were also printmaking studios and methods and material workshops and lectures. Each Summer vacation we were given a subject to illustrate in any visual way we wished, and at the beginning of the new term an exhibition was mounted of the summer vacation work (in the women’s life room), one of the largest studios in the Slade, and discussed by the Slade Professor and occasionally by a visiting artist or critic.

In the Sculpture studios we gained practical information from our senior students, there was little teaching. However on reflection, we were very fortunate in that we had the model posing each day in the same pose throughout the whole ten week term, an opportunity for serious study unequalled elsewhere in the Art Schools of England and Europe. Amongst all our classical study we experienced the crash of the American Expressionist Exhibition on our door at the Tate Gallery.

Such was the background of Clapham’s Fine Art study at the Slade. Certainly he distinguished himself as a serious imaginative and committed artist, creating drawings paintings and life sized sculptures of considerable success both as portraits of the particular model and as lively three-dimensional forms in space. By contrast Clapham’s present work is the quintessence of a long period of complex imaginative response to the constant movement and change in nature.
The Paintings are visual poems describing the flux change and movement in nature, and the landscape around him. They are visual abstractions evoking differing rhythms of speed and stillness revealed by a magical and personal sensibility towards the differing light intensities of sun and starlight. Light intensities and directional thrusts, glitter, glide, at times shatter across asymmetrically layered collaged format of these canvases creating a powerful sensation of natural events occurring in front of us. As though we have our feet in the water, with events occurring all around us and flowing towards and away from us.

Throughout there is a strong feeling of the closeness of the space experienced which is reinforced by the richness of their limited colour harmonies. Their mysterious dark luminated river, sky, shades of ultramarine is complemented by the secondary interchange of viridian yellow grass landscape greens. At times we experience the space intervals in a similar way to that we feel the closeness of an opened letter flap, as we retrieve the letter, on other occasions we experience a musical rhythm of space and time similar to the experience of turning the leaves of a book. These are sound light spangled paintings of extraordinary and luminous shades and singular depth of beauty.

Like his response to his subject matter his usual processes are multi-layered combining as he does varied modern graphic contemporary techniques e.g. photographic montage, building series of thin washes of acrylic and inks over a collage framework. Consciously incorporating into his images the quality of the printed poster, a photo-reproduction or a painted surface. In many ways he is following in the English romantic landscape tradition of Turner, Samuel Palmer, and William Blake.
David Clapham has recently started to live and work in the Casal Arrassio Valley in Portugal, where these paintings start to reflect his sensitive and visionary response to the landscape conditions of the area.

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In River Reflections One 2007, light delineates the buoyant rectilinear interlocking collage forms, and at intervals perfumes their surfaces and edges with glass like lines of light. Above top left the light explodes in a variety of dominant pulsations suggestive of the sun bursting upon the dark green-banked gladed moving river.
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By contrast Ceira Valley Image 2005, carries the feeling of the forms emanating a kind of inner light, like the light one experiences on looking at the inside of a sea shell fresh from the sea, pure, delicate, beautiful. I admire the long horizontal format of this painting and it’s overall silver blue grey ground, moving far left to a darker grey green hue, I admire too the way in which the three inter-floating motives interweave within each other. The right delicately modulated azure blue, grey, transparent watercolour motive, with its locked trailing bundle of abstract curved bird like shapes, glides forward to the centre, rhythmic triangle, with orange green grey repeated sea wave rhythms and glittering kite like transparent centre to the dark plumed final dark section, almost the overall gentle peaceful movement of the work as a whole but not quite. A magnificent painting.
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In Passo Winter 2006, the whole painting is gripped in frozen stillness, lit by clouded moonlight. Over half the painting is inter sandwiched area of two rectangles of translucent ice, suffused by dark tinted cobalt, bleached by plumes of darker blue. Their cut out contours edge into the darkness around. To the right, almost black silhouette tree forms stretch their twigs upwards above ponds of blue light. It’s a remarkable river landscape held in the quite stillness of winter. These are beautiful memorable paintings they sing their song after quite contemplation.