Artist takes a dark turn in new works
Painter Christopher Burk is literally changing people's perspective.
The urban-landscape artist has spent the past few years capturing rooftops, eaves, utility poles and overhead wires. For “Stillness: Nocturnes by Christopher Burk,” which opens Friday, Sept. 1 at Brandt-Roberts Galleries (and where it will be on view through Oct. 1), Burk offers a body of work that gives the viewer glimpses of a city at night, tableaus of unexamined scenes and forgotten locales.
The scenes in the 25 landscapes that comprise “Stillness” are from Columbus, but the body of work is inspired by Burk's month-long residency in rural Vermont. Rather than his preferred oils and canvas, Burk brought with him to New England gouache and paper, forcing himself to work in a different way and, ultimately, leading him to opt to document his temporary environs at night.
“[The work] kind of became this abstract painting because everything was so dark,” Burk said in an interview at his Blockfort studio, “or these mini-abstractions within each landscape.”
He brought the concept — including the medium — back to Columbus where he began “documenting what I see around me as I walk around the city at night,” as he explained.
While Burk said he affords himself a modicum of artistic license, he takes pride in the fact that he is depicting each location as he found it, be it a front porch lit by streetlamp, a hidden alleyway or a row of trash cans.
“I'm pretty good at remembering” where each scene is, Burk said. (He captures his landscapes with his iPhone and does his painting in-studio.) “It's a specific location for sure, and I could tell you where it is. Most of [the work] is literal. I like that you could go out and find it exactly as I found it.”
At the same time, that specificity isn't required, Burk said.
“Sometimes, it could be anywhere. It's off-the-beaten path, an alleyway or a hidden scene from Anywheresville. There are a lot of those elements in this ‘Stillness' show. That's the fun part, where it's not so overt, that it could be a dumpster anywhere. It's specific but nondescript, which is fun and adds to the mystery of the whole thing.”
Whether utility poles and lines set against a cloudless sky or a streetlamp shedding light on a back alley dumpster, it's the alternate perspective that suits Burk's eye.
“I like the idea of taking something that's not beautiful and adding this other level to it,” he said. “It's always about what's above or what's below eye level, about learning to look upward or downward and tuning in to the environment.”