Robyn Burgess - 'Painting'
Wednesday 1 - Sunday 12 March 2017
Travel has been the major influence on Burgess' painting practice for many years; the foreign city, its architecture and art… but it is not as simple as that - pilgrimage is one of the strongest metaphors for life…you realise that the spiritual journey is the actual journey. At home in the studio the ideas and memories accumulate and wait. But as American artist Philip Guston implied, it is best when all your ideas finally leave and you are completely alone.
We are the stories we tell and don’t tell. Burgess is aware that she plays anti-narrative games with the work and that is frustrating because foremost she is interested in paint, believing you have to be cunning to paint; you often take awful risks and try to maintain a solemn optimism. There is little excitement or curiosity if you don’t do what frightens you. However one works, the closed flat space of the painted abstract surface will always remain just that. A pictorial process where the medium may become the message.
How you see the past through the lens of contemporary art is vital. The artist has begun to exhibit the ‘small studies’ which usually live on the studio floor. Burgess has no problem if they are flawed; they are often the ‘notes’ for the large paintings, studies and variations from other artists paintings she wants to steal and learn from or pay homage to. They are always surfaces to put leftover paint on. In some ways these small works have taught her when to abandon a large painting and risk hanging it unresolved, unfinished. The texture of duration is halted.
In winter last year, Burgess sailed in circles beneath the pylons of the looming Westgate Bridge. Those drawings became paintings. Sometimes you don’t have to travel very far at all.
In this exhibition, Burgess has combined two main bodies of work. The architectural bridge sits beside the webbed crinoline (a product from investigations of Velazquez Las Meninas in the Prado, Spain). Both reveal elements such as the grid, shape, repetition, symmetry and rhythm amidst many secrets. For her, both allow a different pace in the work whilst grappling with the structure of gesture in painting.
For just a moment, painting suspends time.