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Australian art

Contemporary art

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'Artists think...' No 1



Ian Burn

Australia, United States of America

29 Dec 1939 - 29 Sep 1993


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.




Media category

Mixed media painting

Materials used

oil on cardboard, wood


29.0 x 38.5 x 4.5 cm each


Rudy Komon Memorial Fund 2007


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ian Burn

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Ann Stephen, Artists think: the late works of Ian Burn, Melbourne, 1996, 106 (colour illus.).