(Australia, United States of America 29 Dec 1939 – 29 Sep 1993)
29.0 x 38.5 x 4.5 cm each
Ian Burn had a vital role in the international development of conceptual art in London and New York from 1965-1977. On returning to Australia Burn became involved in the labour movement and only intermittently made art over the next ten years. Burn began making art again in the late 1980s and the ‘Artist’s think’ series were made shortly before he died in 1993.
In the early 1990s Burn returned to painting – but it was a mediated return where ‘painting’ itself is located within an interlocking matrix of references to vision and language, production and reception. The paintings themselves in these works are amateur landscapes – in the ‘Value added landscape’ series from 1992-3 they were found landscapes from junk shops; in the ‘Artists think’ series they would seem to be landscapes by Burn from the late 1950s when he began painting as a Sunday amateur.
The paintings, of a uniform size on cardboard, were reframed by Burn in primary colours – red, yellow, blue – with text of a corresponding colour overlaying the original canvas. The primary colours suggest early modernist abstraction and design. In the text Burn makes the point of the primacy of both thought and vision to artists. ‘Artists think’ is a statement that values ideas and concepts, but thinking with their eyes and their eyes open suggests that a purely conceptual approach can also be limiting. In overlaying this particular text over amateur landscape paintings Burn also seems to suggest that our preconceptions of what constitutes landscape art shape how we see and experience place itself.
Ann Stephen, Artists think: the late works of Ian Burn, Melbourne, 1996, 106 (colour illus.).
Artists think: the late works of Ian Burn:
Unscripted, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 May 2005–24 Jul 2005