Math Room is the home, studio and exhibition space of artist Frederick Clarke. It is also the name he uses to describe his artistic practice, which is one of harmony through paradox, as he explains, “to impart a greater sense of balance through positive Creative Energy, and an open acknowledgement of, and engagement with the dark that defines the light”.
Frederick works across a range of mediums, including printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture and mixed media. His work is characterised by complex and precise mark making, regardless of medium, and acute attention to intricate detail.
Math Room is situated on the 2nd floor of Arts On Main in the Maboneng Precinct. It opened its doors in September 2011, and has been morphing and developing since then. We chatted with Frederick a bit about the space, both as the Math Room, and what it is about to transform into.
How did you come to occupy this space?
After moving out of Main Street Life, I was looking for a next step in terms of work and home – and the Math Room space provided a good combination of both. The last year and a half has been an interesting experience of being on multiple levels.
What about the space/location appeals to you?
The fact that the space is located within Arts on Main means that I am able to share my work on a regular basis, through planned events and also general foot traffic that flows through the quad on market days. The design of the space is also beautiful, and secure – downtown in my experience is a safe and relaxed place, despite the sometimes grungy appearance. The Maboneng precinct in general is an interesting project/development/expansion that continues to grow. The thing I like about being here is that there is support and interest in individual and collective creativity, and a resulting network and dialogue, despite it being a little constructed and ambiguous at times. With open eyes and conscious intentions I feel there is a most positive trajectory in the making.
How does this part of the city inspire you/influence your work?
The city does not influence me directly, or in obvious ways. It is more a case of the city acting as a microcosm of the world – which is what really inspires me. I am constantly torn as a human being, by the paradox of life, creativity and destruction, growth and decay – walking the line of being present amidst the madness. I find inner Joburg provides a most interesting challenge for the human heart – to be brave, strong, and open in order to survive, not only in the city, but in oneself.
The Math Room has been your residence, studio and exhibition space all in one – what have been the benefits/difficulties of occupying such a fluid space?
The obvious challenge is one of belonging. This space has not felt like a home in the conventional sense, but has rather been a base for my survival and work. What has emerged is that I need very little – mainly tools, instruments, artwork, and a bed to be happy. Through a process of battling for quiet and privacy in a place that is not really meant for living, I have learnt much about patience, and non-attachment; two very important states of being I enjoy cultivating as best I can. It has been great sharing this space and process with people around me, as they have been essential in better understanding myself and the context. Having direct contact with people interested in the work is wonderful, as opposed to a gallerist doing the talking for the artist.
You describe the Math Room as a headspace – what is the relationship between that space and the physical space?
Math Room has been in flux since I moved in. It has always reflected my state of mind and being, from the dark times to the light. It is an open sharing of energy. This is not to say I am always open and ready for tours – I enjoy privacy and quiet – a lot – but when I am open I don’t like to hide anything. Thoughts and emotions physically manifest, if we choose so, and this is an example of this -life as art and art as life. The more I live, the less I feel there are any boundaries between the two. Art is much more than artwork – it is a state of being and everything that follows.
Where were you before the Math Room, and where do you imagine you will go after?
I have been something of an urban gypsy for the last 8 years of living in Joburg. It has been an interesting journey, and has brought me to a point now of not really thinking or worrying what comes next. I am guided by my excitement and service to the Earth, and that is always at it’s purest when I am in the present moment. In the present, there is no future, past, belief, or even hope – only being and awareness. This is the way I enjoy living now. Now!
Is space important as an artist? If so, in what ways?
Space is very important. Space is the place! For creative energy to flow and grow, I find I need to cultivate certain rhythms. These are of course abstract and largely indescribable, but to balance socializing with stillness is important for me. It is in both that seeds of inspiration are planted from the source – but seldom in one exclusively. We often forget that stillness is an act. Again, it is not only about physical space – much more about minimizing the noise that we as contemporary humans contain. We take on so much spam everyday – disposable bullshit we don’t need – to process and lighten the system automatically creates more space to enjoy wherever we are.
The Math Room is morphing into Rubix Cube – can you tell us a little about what’s in store for the space:
The space is going to shape shift on the 20th of April, where myself, Rebecca Haysom, Jotam Schoeman and Norman Mankowitz will be sharing it as an exhibition space showcasing our respective creative work. The idea is to get a mix of visual languages interacting together, as well as combining to dream up themed events or projects that propel both ourselves and the public into new and exciting experiences of Art, Music and other creative work.
Who is/will be welcome in the space?
Everyone! Even animals. No children please. (kidding)
What music can be heard playing in the space?
In Math Room I always make sure there is something fresh, upbeat and mysterious providing aural satisfaction. There is such an abundance of musical medicine available! For the closing event on Friday there will be a surprise live music performance, as well as some good beats to bless Math Room and it’s occupants, as well as welcome the new and exciting Rubix Cube Project. When I return from a residency in Argentina in June, my intention is to find a new location to continue the art arithmetic, so Math Room will definitely be back – the form remains a mystery.
Join Frederick on Friday 12th April at 7pm for the Math Room closing event!