(Australia, United States of America 29 Dec 1939–29 Sep 1993)
59.0 x 87.0 x 10.5cm
Ian Burn played a vital role in the international development of conceptual art in London and New York from 1965–77. On returning to Australia he became involved in the trade union movement and over the next decade only intermittently made art. His ‘‘Value added’ landscapes’ from 1992–93 are significant works which synthesise his thinking on artmaking, landscape, representation and language. They also mark his return of sorts to painting, but a mediated return where painting itself is located within a matrix of references to vision and language, production and reception.
The paintings incorporated in these works are amateur landscapes collected from markets and junk shops which Burn has overlaid with text that, as he explains, ‘at alternate moments, describes the picture, addresses the viewer and reflects on itself as text’.1 The mirroring, which was an important part of Burn’s work in the late 1960s and which implicates the viewer and the location of the artwork in the production of meaning, is still apparent in these later works. The perspex, with words printed on it, is both a screen through which we see the landscape and a means by which we are reflected in this reading of the land. In this way, the work produces a complex process of looking. As art historian Ann Stephen has written: ‘The texts that overlay the landscapes cloud our ability to make judgments about the paintings, reminding us that we don’t have a natural relation to looking’.2 Here, text and image compete for equal attention in an unresolved exchange where ultimately meaning remains ambivalent.
Depicting landscape itself is, of course, one of the most historically prevalent and perennially popular forms of Australian art and one where a distinctive Australian subject matter first appeared. The continuation of landscape as the key subject matter of the amateur painter and its place in the popular imagination remains important to Burn’s respectful exploration of this legacy. ‘‘Value added’ landscape no 11’ was exhibited in his first solo exhibition, entitled ‘Collaborations’, at Melbourne’s Sutton Gallery in 1993. The title of the exhibition points to how Burn saw himself as working with the found paintings. The title of the series refers to a process of recuperation and new life which the discarded paintings gain through Burn’s process of revaluing, and to the layering of meanings which the text overlay traces out.
1. Ian Burn, ‘Notes on “value added landscapes”’ in Geoff Levitus (ed), ‘Lying about the landscape’, Craftsman House, Sydney 1997, pp 112–16.
2. Ann Stephen ‘Making origins work’ in ‘Agenda’, no 38, Sept 1994, p 15.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection Handbook, 2006
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2003 2003, 'Year in review', pg.14-35, Domain, 2003, 18.
Natasha Bullock, Contemporary: Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Collection, 'Landscape, mapping, nature', pg.290-331, Sydney, 2006, 292, 300, 301 (colour illus.).
Ian Burn, Collaborations 1993, "Notes on 'value added' landscapes", 1993.
Denise Mimmocchi, Australian Symbolism: the art of dreams 2012, ‘The sunny south: the landscape as Aesthetic ideal’, pg.81-90, Sydney, 2012, 82.
Ann Stephen, Artists think: the late works of Ian Burn 1996, Melbourne, 1996, 98 (colour illus.).
Ann Stephen, Australian Journal of Art 9vol. Xii 1994-1995, "'Value Added' Landscapes, 1993-93", 1994-1995.
Collaborations, Sutton Gallery, Fitzroy, 1993–1993
Artists think: the late works of Ian Burn:
Unscripted, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 20 May 2005–24 Jul 2005