Brian Burke (1952 - 2017)

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“Brian was one of the most extraordinary artists to have come out of PEI.”

“I have long admired Brian’s figurative paintings, which are both beautiful and dark. Burke was a genius at capturing psychological states of being through minimal means. Using thin washes of smoky colour, he created stark vignettes of brooding isolation, estrangement, and loneliness. I always wondered where these images came from.

…But in addition to its resonating content, Brian’s work is just great painting.”

Terry Graff, former Director CEO Beaverbrook Art Gallery; former Director and Chief Curator, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, 2017

“My paintings are not about me; they are about you.”

Brian Burke, 2016

“Painting for me is an activity not unlike playing jazz. With jazz I require interaction with other people to find that state where I am, in effect, watching myself play. If all is going well I can achieve a similar “state of grace” while in the act of painting. I paint to find that space. The resultant painting doesn’t make the viewer privy to any great “truth”. He is the same as one who listens to music– he is afforded the opportunity to retrace the artist’s steps and become an interpreter. This activity is the audiences’ source of gratification,” Brian Burke.

Brian Burke was one of Canada’s foremost figurative painters. His paintings often consider basic questions of contemporary society, sometimes by poking fun. One commentator and friend, John Greer, says that Burke’s paintings are a result of courageously looking into the abyss of “What does it mean to be human?” Burke’s images speak about human responses to this face-to-face encounter with infinity. They are not about finding answers but rather about how to face – or not to face – the who and why we are, what we are and why we respond to the world in the way we do. [John Greer is a sculptor of international reputation, whose retrospective “retroactive” was at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia April to September 2015.]

Born in Charlottetown PEI, Burke studied design at Holland College (1971-73), and Fine Art at Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (1974). He lived in PEI and Switzerland. Burke’s work was supported by the PEI Council of the Arts and Canada Council for the Arts. It has been exhibited in numerous public galleries in group and solo exhibitions and at international art fairs and is in many collections in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Burke completed a commission for the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (PEI) in 2005.

from Studio 21