Daniel Clarke is a London based illustrator whose architecture-inspired illustrations are gaining plaudits for their at once abstract and meticulous quality. After a project illustrating South London’s Heygate Estate in the midst of its demolition in 2011, modernist architecture has become a repeated influence in Daniel’s work. By drawing on his travels across Europe, he has broken the quintessential qualities of mid century architecture into their components and borrowed the lines, curves, and modules to build a pattern that is at once recognisable and fresh.
Imogen Adams headed to the Barbican gardens to talk to Daniel about his exploration of the city through his twin passions of skateboarding and sketching, to discuss the textiles in his current show at Førest London, and to find out what he has his sights set on next.
Cees Braakman’s FT30 armchair for Pastoe upholstered in Daniel Clarke’s ‘Fragment’ fabric and Danish footstool in ‘Block’ fabric
Daniel Clarke: Tell us about how you began illustrating and the inspiration behind your current show at Førest?
I studied graphic design at Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College before going on to study illustration at Camberwell College of Art. Skateboarding has played a big part in my life; I’m always looking for interesting patterns and shapes that I could skate and this found its way into my work. It’s one of the reasons I’m fascinated with the Barbican – there are so many elements to it that I’d dream of skateboarding. My show for Førest draws on this obsession. This show allowed me to the opportunity to draw on a series of illustrations I created previously for residents of the Heygate Estate, to which I incorporated fresh inspiration from Modernist architecture I’d seen during recent travels in Europe. It’s been really exciting to see my artwork applied to textile, a new medium for me. The scariest part was seeing how the patterns would work in combination with mid-century furniture, but I’m really happy with the results.
Daniel Clarke, illustration from the Heygate Estate series
Daniel Clarke: How did you come to get involved in the Heygate Estate project?
Whilst I was studying at Camberwell, I was searching around for a subject for my final project. I was interested in architecture and I started exploring my local area in South-East London. I came across the Heygate Estate and began spending a lot of time there sketching. One of the residents approached me one day and told me about his campaign to save the Estate. He asked if I’d help by doing some design work for leaflets and flyers. As I became involved, I learnt more about the Estate and was introduced to other residents, from whom I gathered a collection of stories. I used these in my work, as well as patterns and details like the walkways and windows – this eventually formed a book in which I merged my illustrations with residents’ stories.
Diö Slöjd & Mobler desk chair upholstered in Daniel Clarke’s Block Print for Førest London
Daniel Clarke: Where do you think the mid century influence came from?
My interest in mid century modern architecture, developed out of my project with the Heygate Estate. From there, I researched similar buildings and mid century architecture evolved into a part of my style. I have a keen eye for the prominent use of geometric shapes and patterns, the clean lines and simplicity. I take my inspiration from places I’ve been to, I immerse myself in the architecture; it’s only by visiting a place that you can really appreciate the detail, for instance I could be walking through a walkway here at the Barbican and notice how the steps align with the wall and use that as inspiration for a new composition.
Daniel Clarke, ‘Arch’ and ‘Fragment’
Daniel Clarke: Do you have any architects or designers who you would count as key influences on your work?
The work of Le Corbusier is a key influence, with its simple grid-like forms and linear patterns – I’ve visited the Unite d’Habitation twice. After all, the Heygate and Barbican estates can be traced to his architectural theories. Charles and Ray Eames also provide a strong visual draw for me. Like Corbusier, the geometry in their work has become a prominent part of our design landscape.
Daniel Clarke, ‘Overlay’, exhibited at Førest London
Daniel Clarke: What’s next for you and what would be your dream commission?
Right now, I’m working on a series of skateboard graphics with a distinct architectural theme – this has allowed me to expand on the series I worked on for Førest. I’m taking inspiration from architecture in London and borrowing from buildings and places I used to skate when I was younger. I’ve also just finished work on a book cover for a collection of short stories centred around isolation in the modern city.
I’d love to collaborate with the Barbican. It’s one of my favourite places to go and draw on a sunny day. I’m really interested in creating murals and working with architect-designers to appropriate my work into architectural environments. Seeing my illustrated architecture interacting with physical architecture would be amazing.
Daniel Clarke, ‘Biophilia’
For details of the exhibition at Førest London, click here
Visit Førest London’s website for a selection of mid-century furniture upholstered in Daniel’s prints.
See our interview with mid-century inspired textile designer Eleanor Pritchard