Brendan Burns; Research



A favourite artist of mine, and one that taught me during my foundation year last year, Brendan Burns is a fascinating artist that focuses primarily on hi sown journeys upon the coastlines of Wales. Often working from the rock pools he encounters upon during his walks, he will ignore any pools that could have possibly been experienced by another, instead favouring those that are fresh and new; focusing on the inherent beauty and the unique aspects of each. Like myself, he is fascinated with the reflections one feels upon walks, especially alongside the coast, as one often peers into the pools create dby the shifting tides and constantly eroding rock, and sees oneself within them.

‘Grind’ is my favourite of his paintings, skeletal in form, the painting exhibits skills within application and removal of paint, and is quite a beautiful and haunting piece. The use of delicate colours and a muted palette really speaks to me, and reminds me of my own work in a strange way, expressive and empty, the feelings evoked by this painting are nothing short of empty, but within this void is a beauty.



Another large oil painting by Burns (they often exceed a few metres in height and width), this one instead utilises a background ‘wash’, and within this it is far easier to see the symbolism of the rock pool. The brushstrokes remind me of flowers within a forest floor, or the decaying remains of leaves upon a forest floor; but I know better, and the image of reflection bursts forth through these flowers; creating a piece of work which is not only fascinating to look at, but also used as a tool for meditation; as we ‘peer into the painting’ and see imagery that is not inherently there, we peer within ourselves when we look at these paintings; I feel like this is important within a work such as this, and the aspect of ‘reflection’ may be incredibly important to my own work; both in a physical sense, but also obviously within the spiritual aspect of my work. The circles of stones are intended to be a symbol for my own reflections on the beach, they should evoke a reflection within the viewer.



Another beautifully minimalistic piece, utilising an incredibly light palette to give an effect of near-invisibility, as well as a sort of radiance to the paint. I assume this pool was highly reflective of the sky above it, creating a reflecting pool that seems to exude light; a common symbol of spirituality and benevolence. I also appreciate the way that the white paint does not cast a shadow, but rather, covers the darker background behind it; as if the reflections of the light and clouds on the pool hide those within the pool, the positivity inherent in this is clear, and it is incredibly successful.


‘Stone Poem; H’

Burns also has a recurring interest in the rocks surrounding the pools he searches for, and is often seen working from these artefacts of nature throughout his drawings, of which he has accumulated a vast amount. Here we see his pioneering use of simple black boot polish to create an effect not unlike the smooth, yet roughly dark stones of the beaches he frequents. Weaving such a  material in this way not only shows a great deal of skill, but also a level of ingenuity, the polish is crafted from natural materials such as wax and pigments from the earth, and so is a great tool to use to draw natural objects. The harshness of the dual tones of black and white wash away with the soft edges of this drawing, causing the viewer to want to reach out and grasp these stones; their very shading making them appear somewhat ethereal to the eye.


‘Stone Poem; R’

Another interesting drawing, this one works with watercolours and pastels instead of the route taken with the previous example, preferring to mix both a range of materials, as well as colours, into the drawing to create a vibrant, yet empty aesthetic. The use of red, often seen as a the colour of blood in traditional symbolism, as well as the hue of power, is used here; is there a connection between the blood of the earth, and the stones he so vehemently draws? Could the stones be amputated bits of the earth, that break off the larger cliff faces of the earth, and thus are some form of hardened ‘blood’? whatever the case, this drawing speaks to me on a subconscious level, and is another of my favourite works by Burns.


‘Stone Poem; I’

Taking the concept of a ‘Drawing’ to another plane, Burns utilises a cutting technique here to draw two simple outlines upon the paper; nothing more is needed to receive the desired effect. I believe that this outlines a river, or a series of interconnected pools, but I am not sure. The fluidity of the line is fascinating to view however, and the aspect of utilising such delicate cuts, creating very light shadows to evoke a feeling of stone is astounding.


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