Charles Clough’s Hamburg Arena Painting, which now hangs at the Hamburg Public Library, is the result of a public art event led by the artist on October 25, 2014. Over the course of eight hours, 168 participants and volunteers gathered in the Swan Auditorium at Hilbert College in Hamburg, New York, to add their marks to the work by pouring or splattering a variety of colors onto the canvas, then smearing, pushing, and scraping the paint using Clough’s giant and distinctively crafted “paintbrushes” called “Big Fingers.” The large surface was purposefully designed to invite grand gestures and broad strokes. Rather than directing participants, Clough empowered them to act freely upon the painting.
The performative experience was at the heart of this work as it changed and shifted with each person’s addition, creating a co-authored work that could never have been conceived by any one individual. The entire community was welcome to view the event, which was free and open to the public throughout the day. After the last marks were made, Clough scraped the canvas with his industrial-sized tools and added the final touches. The result is recognizably a work by the artist, but one which could never have taken its final form without the participation of each individual contributor.
A restless tinkerer and a romantic, Clough thinks of the act of Arena Painting as Performance art. This experience, the act of painting with a community, is at the heart of the work and facilitates Clough’s interest in producing art as a byproduct of meaningful and shared conversations.
About Charles Clough
Buffalo-born Charles Clough (American, born 1951) has taught art at Columbia University and the Rhode Island School of Design and been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation. His paintings are included in the collections of more than 70 museums, including those of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Albright-Knox, which holds more than 20 works by the artist. Clough currently lives in East Aurora. Visit Charles Clough’s Website