Sunday, January 17, 2010

Presenter Profile Brian Burris

"Black Azrael" image source
Since the first time I saw it at The Sprinkler Factory several years ago "Black Azrael" has been one of my favorite paintings. The image is dark, textural, other worldly, a journey through space; artist Brian Burris's technique is so different from my own, experimental, improvised, spontaneous... I've always been fascinated by the process.  Whats even more fascinating about this Fire Fighter Soccer Dad is the juxtaposition of his life and career to his philosophy and psychological explorations that he extracts from his paintings. About this contrast writer Julie Grady notes "His double life as a standup, regular guy who saves lives, fights fires, and takes care of his family versus his artistic side, I realized, isn't a double life at all. It's one life. 'Reality is projection,' he said. " Your conscious is just fighting it.' "

For Pecha Kucha Night Brian Burris will be exploring the significance and themes of his paintings and how he attempts to "no less than to affix a living soul onto canvas."

Brian's statement on his presentation:

I usually demure when asked for the guided tour of the psychology of my paintings, unless plied en Bacchanal or by an especially beguiling muse, but when asked if I'd like to participate in Pecha Kucha night, I decided I'd attempt it.
My subject will be no less than to try to shed some light on the significance and themes of my paintings in six minutes, forty seconds or less. Like Mr. Kite on trampoline, I will attempt to elucidate upon Aleatory Technique, Automatic Painting and Modern Man in Search of a Soul (to cop Jung).
'Aleatory' meaning developed by chance, more an unconscious invocation of forms in paint than Jazz or algorithm. From the Latin, alea, the rolling of the dice. This aleatoricism arises from the surreal automatism of my technique, producing what has become, apparently, a recognizable style.
As far as the soul goes, I'll quote James Hillman in saying 'there is an invisible connection within any image that is its soul... Then why not to go on to say "images are souls". We can meet the soul and understand it.' (paraphrasing from Inquiry into Image).
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'll cross the line into mediumistic automatism, insanity, and attempt no less than to affix a living soul onto canvas... Which is of course what I've been attempting to do all along.


Brian Burris has been painting for over twenty years. He is a primitive, in the sense that he is self-taught.
Originally, he more closely identified with the abstract expressionists, with the emphasis on the 'automatic' or subconscious act of painting, the accompanying emotional intensity and the anti-figurative, sometimes violent and grotesque aesthetic.
After a seven-year hiatus from painting, Mr. Burris returned and segued into a more minimalist style seen in color field painters like Clyfford Still, Rothko, and Barnett Newman.  He began to explore the parallel themes of automatic and aleatory abstractionism, combining the spiritual and the unconscious in the painting process, the works themselves progressing according to the will of the subconscious and the properties of paint and canvas--thus letting the execution and the subject matter become analogous with where the unconscious meets chance, spirituality meets psychology, and the implications of archetypal awareness and gnostic meaning surface through the medium.
The artist received some attention for his non-traditional artist's statements based in his background in behavioral modification and studies in psychology and religion (including that of non-verbal communication); the effects of hue, declination of line, image juxtaposition compartmentalization on specific areas of the brain, as well as archetypal imagery, Burris explores non-verbal communication of context and emotion through color fields.
In late 2008, Mr. Burris published a book (conceived, written and published in three days), called 'Codex: Fragments & Schemata'.  The work was a montage of paintings, artist statements and fragmented graphics meant to invoke the semblance of disinhibiting stimulus, the prose targeting the unconscious, transcending linear formula or understanding. Like the Zen koan, seeking to evoke ‘the forms of an idea of a thing and its aspects, and bring the viewer to succumb to the illusion of the whole’ (to paraphrase Jung), the themes explored run from the Gnosticism to Hillman psychology, metaphysics to the subconscious, and yet are then disavowed by the artist, Judas-like, as fiction.
Brian Burris shows a half-dozen times a year and is currently represented by the commercial Dzian Gallery on Water Street in Worcester Mass.  He shows through ArtsWorcester, as well in corporate, institutional and retail settings, and has shown in venues from Cambridge to Northampton.  The artist maintains a website:, which contains links to various related media, news articles, etcetera, as well as information on where to purchase his book.

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