Clive Head (born 1965) is a painter from Britain.
Head was born in Maidstone, Kent, the son of a machine operator at Reed's Paper Mill in Aylesford. Head had a precocious talent in art and at the age of 11 attended Reeds Art Club, a social club organised at his father's factory. He was a pupil of Maidstone Grammar School. In 1983 he began studying for a degree in Fine Art at the Aberystwyth University under the tutorship of the abstract painter David Tinker. Here he also became friends with another realist painter, Steve Whitehead. After completing his degree, and a short period of postgraduate study at Lancaster University, Head began showing with the flamboyant art dealer Nicholas Treadwell.
In 1994 Head founded and became the Chair of the Fine Art Department at the University of York's Scarborough Campus where he again teamed up with Steve Whitehead and became friends with the art theorist Michael Paraskos and the artist Jason Brooks. During this period most of Head's work was in a neo-classical figurative style, and these were shown with Brooks at the Paton Gallery, London in 1995. Head then moved on to producing realist paintings, closer in theme and style to the work he had made as an art student in Aberysthwyth.
In 1999 Head gave up teaching and signed to Blains Fine Art (now Haunch of Venison Gallery) in London and Louis K. Meisel Fine Art in New York. In 2003 he joined Paraskos in taking part in the International Photorealist Project in Prague. The work produced was later exhibited in the United States. In 2005 he was commissioned by the Museum of London to produce a painting of Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
In 2005 he was debilitated by a neurological disease that had a devastating effect on his muscles, and it took another five years for him to be diagnosed and treated for Dopa-Responsive Dystonia. During this time, however, he continued painting and the scale of his work became larger. Increasingly he focused on London, and in 2005 joined Marlborough Fine Art.
In 2007 he worked again with Paraskos at the Schwäbische Kunstsommer, University of Augsburg, Irsee, Germany, and since then they have collaborated in publishing and lecturing on what they call The New Aesthetics. In September 2012 Paraskos will guest curate an display of Head's work alongside that of Nicolas Poussin at Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.
In October and November 2010 three paintings were exhibited at the National Gallery, London, which received unusual coverage for such a show, including on October 29 a segment on Radio 4's PM news magazine.
Style and Philosophy
Head’s style of painting is realist, but it has little in common with recent forms of realism such as photorealism or photography. In terms of artistic practice it is possibly closer to the direct engagement with reality one sees in the paintings of Antonio López García or Frank Auerbach than either photorealist painting or photography, although stylistically it is still very different. In this we can see the strong motivating force in Head not to emulate the realist art of the past, but to create a new form of realist painting for the twenty-first century. In this, Head's connection to the New Aesthetics also seems significant as the New Aesthetics is a deliberate attempt to reinvent the concept of the avant-garde.
Despite the source for his work being a direct physical engagement with the material world, in his paintings Head attempts to create an alternative universe that resembles the everyday world, but is spatially very different from it. His starting point is to stand in a specific location, such as the entrance to a London Underground station or a coffee shop, where he will gather information by sketching, photographing or simply experiencing the scene. The end point, however, is never to recreate an image of that location, but to use that information and experience to invent an artificial world that convinces the viewer of its own independent reality. This sets up a complex relationship in Head's paintings, between their resemblance to somewhere we might know, like a London street, and Head's insistence that we are in fact looking through a framed 'window' at another reality.
Significantly this stands in stark contrast to the tendency amongst artists in the latter half of the twentieth century to define art using Marcel Duchamp's claim that anything is art when an artist says it is art. Instead Head has proclaimed that true art works define themselves, and are art works regardless of whether an artist, or critic, or even wider society says they are art works. Similarly a work of non-art cannot become art just because an artist, or critic, or wider society says it is an art work. This self-possession of the status of being art work is, according to Head, either present or not present, and the work either functions as art or it does not function as art, in the same way a tree is a tree and does not require a human or social definition to allow it to function as a tree. It just functions as a tree by itself. This self-definition of the art work is given the name "metastoicheiosis".
One of the primary differences between Head's painted realities and the reality of every day life lies in the way space is defined. Head does not present a vista or view like a camera, he shows an entire environment, and if we were to try to replicate seeing one of his environments in real life we could not do it by visiting the location and simply looking straight ahead. Instead we would have to look ahead and simultaneously to our extreme left and extreme right, up and down as far as our heads could go, and even behind us. At the same time we would have to walk around the location, peering round corners, and experiencing the passage of time. Head's paintings are in effect more like the record of a living human body wandering around a location, rather than a static snapshot of a part of it. Consequently his work most closely resembles a movie camera panning around a scene, but the closest painting equivalent is in the multiple viewpoints, shifts of scale and games played with time seen in a Cubist painting by Picasso or Braque. Unlike a shattered Cubist image, however, Head uses a realist language of painting to render his experience into something coherent and whole.
In interviews Head has always insisted that the language of realism he uses is not the same as the language of photography, and it is true that his paintings do nor resemble photographs. Indeed, Head has been consistently critical of the futility of painters copying photographs. In this Head's previous work as a neo-classical painter is significant as his spatial constructions are derived from classical ideas of perspective rather than being imported from a camera, computer or other machine. In this it appears significant that Head has stated that his use of perspective is not bound by pre-determined rules in a mechanical way, but evolves during the process of making each individual painting a process a camera cannot match. This means there is no pre-determined vanishing point, where all the lines of perspective meet, but what Head calls 'vanishing zones'. Head has also stated he 'rejects the Modernist fragmentation and instead seek a seamless surface.' 
In terms of subject matter, Head tends towards cityscapes, particularly London, although he has also painted New York, Moscow, Los Angeles, Prague, Rome and Paris, amongst other places.
Most recently Head has written of himself as a kind of anarchist artist, although he qualifies this by defining himself as a 'private anarchist' rather than a 'political anarchist'. This seems to relate to the increasingly definite anarchist artistic position Michael Paraskos has pursued in recent years, and in particular Paraskos's notion of anarchist art being an attempt to visualise an alternative reality outside society and culture. Paraskos has in effect defined culture in political terms as a manifestation of the predetermined state that imposes its will on the individual. In Head this translates into an opposition to predetermined visual imagery. The most straightforward example of predetermined imagery is photography, but for Head it is not the use of photography itself that is the problem, it is the adoption of the predetermined, or imposed, language of the photograph by the painter. Notably Head also opposes other, non-photographic, solutions to pictorial problems where those solutions are also predetermined, such as systemic art and contemporary Salon Painting. Consequently, an analogy is made between the political anarchists' desire for a society in which predetermined structures such as those offered by the state are abolished, and the artistic anarchists' desire for an art world in which predetermined, or cliched, solutions to visual problems are also abolished. .
Clive Head has work in:
- Imperial College (St Mary's Hospital), London
- The Museum of London
- Victoria and Albert Museum (London)
- The Museum of London
- Maria Lucia and Ingo Klöcker Collection (Bad Homburg, Germany)
- 2004 Roberson Museum and Science Centre, Binghamton, New York (USA)
- 2006 Peninsular Fine Arts Centre, Newport News (Virginia, USA)
- 2010 National Gallery, London (UK)
- 2010 Kunsthal, Rotterdam (Netherlands)
- 2011 Galerie de Bellefeuille, Montreal (Canada)
- 2012 Dulwich Picture Gallery (London, UK)
- 2013 Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum (Duisburg, Germany)
- 2013 Kunsthalle Tübingen (Germany)
- 2013 Museo Thyssen‐Bornemisza, Madrid (Spain)
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2005/mar/12/arts.artsnews1, accessed 27 April 2010
- National Gallery Clive Head; Modern Perspectives, accessed October 27, 2010
- Michael Paraskos, Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010) passim
- Michael Paraskos, Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010) 27
- Clive Head, 'Introduction' in John Russell Taylor, Exactitude (London: Thames and Hudson, 2009).
- See Clive Head and Michael Paraskos, "The Aphorisms of Irsee" (London: Orage Press, 2007) "passim"
- Michael Paraskos, Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010) 11
- Michael Paraskos, 'A Revolution is Announced', in The Epoch Times (London newspaper), 13 January 2010
- Michael Paraskos, Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010) 9f
- Michael Paraskos, Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010) 18f and “passim”
- Michael Paraskos, Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010) 17f
- http://sosogay.org/2010/ssg-interviews-clive-head/, accessed 10 January 2011
- Clive Head and Robert Neffson, Clive Head (London: Marlborough Fine Art, 2007) passim
- Clive Head, From Victoria to Arcadia (London: Marlborough Fine Art, 2012)
- Clive Head, From Victoria to Arcadia (London: Marlborough Fine Art, 2012)
- Head, Clive, Clive Head: From Victoria to Arcadia (London: Marlborough Fine Art, ISBN 978-1-904372-52-0, 2012)
- Head, Clive, Sun Setting Over Victoria (London: Orage Press, ISBN 978-0-956580-29-0, 2012)
- Paraskos, Michael and Holland, Jools, Clive Head  (London: Lund Humphries, ISBN 978-1-84822-062-1, 2010).