Brendan Burns

Brendan Burns

Imaging Wales

In a country with more than its fair share of landscape in art, it is tempting to read Brendan Burns' work as its extension in a modern idiom. But that would be to grossly simplify. He lives in Metal Street, Cardiff, but has spent significant amounts of time in Pembrokeshire, a beautiful part of Wales, where landscape has already been exhaustively treated, most famously in the fragmented-organic modes of John Piper and Graham Sutherland. But his work is not about Pembrokeshire, any more than his earlier work was about New York, where he also lived for a while. Both places are starting points, or means to an end. It is significant that Burns is a former student of Terry Setch, which is in itself a clue that his works are not ‘just’ about landscape. And he himself is clear that they are as much about process as subject. Certainly he literally conveys all the natural elements but with no suggestion that he is merely depicting them: time, weather and light are obviously central in his concern and they occur "alongside gesture, glimpse and memory‚Ķ requisite themes within these paintings". His works, even the very smallest, have a profoundly contemplative dimension. Not repetitive in any degree, they suggest the spiritualism of repeated prayer; a trance-like automatism resulting in a transcendent state:

'They are about the act of creativity. They are about contemplation, they have to be sensed as well as experienced, they’re physical paintings. The ‘spiritual’ response and purpose is central.'
Iwan Bala, ‘Not the Stillness’. Planet 155

Burns’ is a sensual as well as a spiritual approach to painting. One is tempted to gastronomic metaphors in order to completely describe them. Unlike those artists with whose work he has expressed affinity (Gillian Ayres, Willem De Kooning and Howard Hodgkin), his has an ethereal quality, with its calligraphic elements suggestion Mark Tobey or Cy Twombly.

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