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Exhibition Review - Nowhere Men

Exhibition Review - Nowhere Men

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Published by Martin Lang
A review of Nowhere Men by Simon Burton at Arch 402 Gallery (London) 9 September - 16 October 2011
A review of Nowhere Men by Simon Burton at Arch 402 Gallery (London) 9 September - 16 October 2011

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Categories:Types, Reviews, Art
Published by: Martin Lang on Jan 04, 2012
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Page 1 of 4 Copyright
©
2011 Martin Lang All Rights Reserved
REVIEW
SimonBurton:NowhereMen
Arch 402 Gallery, London9 September - 16 October 2011By:Martin Lang » 
SimonBurtonislostandblind.Idon'tmeanthisliterallyofcourse:hecanseeandatthetimeofwritingheisinLondon,aplacewherehehaslivedforwelloveradecade,inhisgallery(I'msurehecanfindhiswayhome).Metaphoricallyheislostandblindthough.Thismayseemlikeaninsulttoanartist,butitisnot.Infacthehasjusttoldmesohimself.AllbutoneofthepaintingsinNowhereMenaredark.Perhapsheisnottotallyblind,butheisinthedark.Hecanseeenoughtomakehiswaythroughtheforestbuthecan'treallyseebeyondthetrees.Burton'spaintingprocessismoremyopicthanblind,hebecomestotallyinvolvedinsmallsectionsofpaintedsurfaceorinprocess,notreallytakinginthewholepictureuntilhereturnstothestudiothefollowingday.Heislostphilosophicallyandculturally.Heissearchingforthemeaningoflife,oratleastmeaninginlife,andheisdoingthisbymakingpaintings.Moreoftenthannothispaintings(inthisshowatleast)areinhabitedbyasolitaryfigure,perhapsemphasisingthesolitudeoftheblindorthelost.In"Fishing
 
Man"(figs1-2)thefigureisnotsolitary,butaccompaniedbyasmalldogandfivedoves.Thedogisreaching,invain,forthewormontheendoftheman'slineunawarethattherearewormsavailableonthefloor.Atthesametimethedovesappeartobeeffortlesslytakingthewormsdirectlyfromatinthemanisholding.Themanisalsowearing3Dglasses,fornoapparentreason.Theshapesoftheleaves,andtheshapesinbetweenleaves,formakindofjigsawbackgroundtothepainting.Theyoscillateandmoveoveroneanother,operatingabitlikeamagiceyepicture.Perhapsthesetropesserveto
 
Figure 1Figure 2
 
Page 2 of 4 Copyright
©
2011 Martin Lang All Rights Reserved
remindusthatpaintingisallaboutlookingandthatallmaynotbeasitappearsuponfirstglance,andthatBurtonhimselfislooking,searchingformeaningbymakingpaintings.Anartistknowsmoreaboutlifethananyone.Imagine,everydayyouwakeupanddowhatyouwant.Sowhatdoyoudo?Noonetellsyou,orasksyoutodoanything,youmustdecide.Burtonseesgettingupandmakinghisbed,ormakinghisbreakfastinthesamewayheseesmakingpaintings:it'spartofhisdailypractice,partofliving.Burtonmovespaintaroundthecanvaslikeachildplayingwiththeirfood.Hescrapesandsandsbackthesurfaceofthepaintinglikeanarchaeologist,searchingforsomethingbyremovinglayersofsoil.Sometimesthisistedious,banal,boringbutsometimesitisexcitingandthesedailyemotionsformpartofthelivinghistoryinthe
 
painting.
 
Thepaintingsareallverygestural,andhand-made.Youcanseetheartist'shand-madebrushstrokes.ForBurtonthisimpliesacleardistinctionbetweenhis"made"workandthemanufacturedpaintingsofthe1990s:onethinksofGaryHumeorIanDavenport,obviously,butalsoChrisOfili(nogesturalmarkshere)andmanyothers.ThroughhearingBurtonspeakitbecomesclearthatthesepaintingsareaformofresistance.Resistanceagainstwhathecallsthetyrannyofsuchmanufacturedpaintings,andthecontemporarytraditiontomakesetsofadozenorsonear-identicalpaintingsforexhibition.Theyarealsoresistanceagainstthetyrannyofstrictrulesinart,asBurtonclaimstotrytobreakhisownruleswhenmakingthework.Alsotheyareresistingthetyrannyofminimalismorfashionorconvention.Inthissensewecanseehisworkaspolitical.Hisetherealyetdarkplacesareexoticandofferusescapeintostrangeanddifferentworlds.Indeed,escapeforhistory.
Figure 3 
 
Page 3 of 4 Copyright
©
2011 Martin Lang All Rights Reserved
Ashefumbleshiswayonasearchformeaninghemakesmistakes,erasesmistakes,thenre-makesmistakes.Inthisway"JohnBigg"(fig4)ismoreofaruinthanaportrait.Thecanvasstartedoffmuchlarger,4-5feetbeforebeingcutupandstitchedbacktogetheragain,withastitchlinerunningrightthroughthecentreofthepainting,likeithasbeenfoldedinhalf.Burtonemphasiseshisprocessoversubjectmatter,whichheseesasrelevantmainlyasawayinfortheviewer.However,bytitlinghispaintingswithnamesofrealpeoplehedoesgiveusanotherwayin.WecanGoogle"JohnBigg"andfindoutwhohewas.JohnBiggwaspotentiallyCharlesI'sexecutioner.Hebecameahermitaftertherestoration.Everydayhewalkedeightmilestothenearesttowntocollectfoodthatpeoplewerepreparedtogivehermits.Healsoaskedforbitsofleatherwhichhestitchedtogether.HisbootscanbeseenattheAshmoleaninOxford,completewithattachedleather,organic,growing.IsBurtonlikeningtheartisttothehermit?Afterall,artistsdo,indeed,removethemselvesfrom"normal"everydaysocietytowork,moreoftenthannot,alone.Burtonalsotakesimagesfromarthistory,andborrowstitlesfromhistoricalpaintings,aswith"WhereamIfrom,whoamI,whereamIgoing",thetitleofwhichisliftedfromaGauginpaintingandfigureistakenfromaRaphaeltapestryintheV&A-notasadirecttranscriptthough,asBurtonhasanuneasyrelationshipwithappropriation,whichheseesasatypeoftheft.
 
Burtonisinfluencedbyhiseverydayactivities.Whilemakingthisbodyofworkhewasthinkingaboutgardeningalot.Heseeslittledistinctionbetweengardeningandpainting.Hethinksoftheactofplantingandcultivatingagardenas"training"plantsandflowers:youhavesomecontroloverwhatyouplantandwherebutultimatelytheyarelivingthings,theycan"growwrong"ornotasyouexpect,orshrivelupanddie.InthesamewayBurton'spaintingsarelivingentities.Theyalsogrow,evolvenotasheexpects(sometimes)andinsomecasestheyevenshrivelupanddie,aswith"TheGathering".
Asitsaysinthepressrelease,Burton'spaintingsseemmorelikeremnantsthanpictures.Remnantsoftheremainsandresidueofaccumulatedfailureswhichproducemysticalandenigmaticnarratives.
Figure 4 Figure 5

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