Sunday, 23 October 2011

Ramblings: Always Join the Minority




I've been fascinated by the artist Edward Burra since seeing his painting, "Winter" at an exhibition at the Quad gallery in Derby which i've shared at the bottom of the page.  

He was infamously grumpy and solitary and always shunned publicity. There's only one existing interview with him in existance. He only accepted a CBE in 1971 because he said he thought it would help him get served in bars, something he struggled with due to his dilapidated appearance. He didn't want fame and the trappings of recognition and celbrity were something which he rightly felt would interfere with what he wanted to do, which was paint pictures.

He was born into a wealthy family and was a sickly child, plagued by juvenile arthritis and ill health which left him a crippled invalid. He found joy in painting and viewed it as an addictive drug. He spent large portions of his life living in his family's mansion although did once tell his mother he was nipping into the garden and returned six months later, following a trip to Harlem to paint hookers, sailors and drunks.

Whilst his contemporaries in the 1920s were hard drinking, cocain snorting womanisers, he was a celibate ascetic. He was iknown for his acerbic put downs and quick wit. His motto was "Always join the minority." He stuck by this and at a time when his contemporaries were painting mostly abstarct work he was fascinated by depicting people, particualry the seedy section of society.

I love the picture at the top of the page, "The Snack Bar" from 1930. The faces fascinate me and speak volumes about the characters. There's a certain dark undercurrent to the picture, perfectly captured. I also love that Burra conquered life long disability to become such a great and prolific painter. Life needs observers to chronicle it for us and help us to view it differently.


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