Finding inspiration off the wall
Five framed works set on a backdrop of wallpaper. Sally Burton talks with Judith Ritchie about her tongue-in-cheek work for a new show.
Topography is a great word. So says Sally Burton who will exhibit her installation, Topography of a Decade, alongside twelve other artists in a show at Reflections Gallery later this month.
The exhibition coincided with Burton reflecting on her last ten years as an artist, how she used to take photographs of her work and have the prints in folders, but now uses digital media to record them.
This is the first time Burton has done anything autobiographical. She was motivated by the word topography, "the kind of charting and mapping, and the joke of elevating my painting palettes into my framed works, then reducing my paintings back to just these little token standardised jpegs, you've got no concept of size."
Burton arranged the small jpeg images on A4 sheets then had them printed out on one large sheet, the wallpaper. She didn't want them all perfect, but still wanted symmetry.
Mounted on top of the wallpaper, five framed works sit vertically, each a window revealing Burton's palette. She makes reference to the layers applied on her works, her distinctive earthy colours, overlays of gold, some have paint lids partially buried in them, others have glaze cups, crumpled and disguised .
"I've always used my palettes as a point of reference, these slow accretions of paint are memory banks of colour, ideas and unused paint." She adds that in some ways they carry more of her fingerprint than the paintings, whose colour was mixed on them.
It is also a light-hearted look at turning this around. " I've turned the whole thing back on myself," she adds, smiling, "and really I'm having a bit of a laugh at myself at the same time, at the kind of obsessive compulsive it takes to be painter."
Burton's "wallpaper" is made up of 672 thumbnail jpeg images of her work from the past ten years, some are sold, some disasters that never made it to an exhibition, others are studies, working paintings towards finished pieces.
"It is totally democratic because there are works here like the cows, that are 2.7 metres long, which sit alongside ones that are tiny," she says. "They're all reduced back to this dumb little jpeg, which is what I'm left with".
"I haven't done 672 paintings in a decade, but this pretty much charts all my themes." She says the images chart projects she did while on a residency in India, commissions, also struggles, works that she overworked and became duds, grand babies born and the paintings she was doing when her mother died.
"What other way would somebody be able to see a decade of their life other than a sheet of wallpaper, it's kind of bizarre."
Burton says that even in this digital age, people still like to have paintings in their homes and when we think of all the changes in the past ten years, the actual act of painting, the materials used to create a painting are pretty much the same, but recording it has completely changed.
"Anybody who has acquired one of my paintings in the last ten years, if they look hard enough, they'll find it here. It's a bit of a mystery, I like that."
She is quick to add "I'm not revealing everything. I'm holding back."