Colin Darke was born in 1957 and grew up in Surrey in the south of England. He moved to London in 1977 to study Fine Art at Goldsmiths College and relocated to the north of Ireland in 1988, living in Derry for twenty years and in Belfast since 2008. He completed his PhD at the University of Ulster in 2010.
His work has been mostly text based since around 1990, originally derived from “comms” – republican prisoners’ letters, written in small writing onto cigarette papers for smuggling out of gaol. His wall pieces, consisting of text and images, were made in response to Marx’s writings on base and superstructure.
The largest text piece is Capital (2000-2003), consisting of the three volumes of Marx’s magnum opus written by hand onto 480 two-dimensional readymade objects. As a result of considering the nature of the readymade from a Marxist economic perspective, he made a follow-up piece, The Capital Paintings (2004-2007), which equalised the commodities used in Capital through making an oil painting of each of the 480 objects used.
Recent work has responded to historical moments, particularly to the Paris Commune of 1871. Many of these works reference Gustave Courbet’s still life paintings of fruit made during his imprisonment for his part in the Commune, his rotting apples acting as metaphors for the Communards killed in the massacre of Bloody Week.
Following the development of the large installation commissioned by The MAC in Belfast (2014), he is returning to his questioning of the Duchampian readymade, attempting to invest objects with historical significance, no longer reliant on textual contextualisation. Darke was the winner of the inaugural (all-Ireland) VAI Suki Tea Art Prize in 2015.