Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF
Monday 01 October 2018 – Thursday 31 October 2019
Image: Steve Burden, A May Day Scene (2017), oil on canvas.
Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. November's Artist of the Month is Steve Burden.
Hello, what do you do?
I consider myself to be an emerging artist. I graduated from Bath Spa University last year with a Masters Degree in Fine Art and October 2016 really marked the beginning of my art practice. Prior to that I worked as a Creative Director in design and branding for leading design studios. I originally studied at Goldsmiths, University of London.
My current practice is primarily inspired by my childhood, growing up on the Pepys Estate in Deptford, south London. I am investigating dystopian themes and ideas associated with British housing estates. Most recently, I’ve begun to explore historical narratives connected to the estate, including the role of the monarchy in Deptford and the original usage of the site as a Naval Dockyard, first commissioned by Henry VIII in 1513.
Where are you based and how long have you been there?
My sons were born in Hackney and I would always consider myself a true Londoner, but, for various reasons, we decided to move to Somerset in 2014. My wife and I were both born in London and, prior to moving back there in 2010, we’d lived in Australia, America, Jordan, Dubai and Qatar.
Where do you work?
I still have a base in London, but spend most of my time painting in my garden in a converted annexe that dates back to 1750 and was originally a farmer’s cottage. It’s a bit of an extravagance to be honest and I am in the process of converting a pigsty behind it to bring me back down to earth where I will be as happy as a pig in the proverbial.
My two sons are fundamental to my working week. I take them both to school every day and before the drop-off we have breakfast and talk shop and they are utterly inspiring. Both are budding artists, one loving the work of Gauguin and my eldest effortlessly drawing like Basquiat which makes me grimace with jealousy and smile with pride – both of them are key critics of my work. Their enthusiasm and energy segues into my day and I usually start by reflecting on the last painting. I read and research constantly, exploring multiple ‘chimneys’ with regards to the Pepys Estate, this could be literature about the Brutalist architecture, historical books on London by the likes of Ackroyd and Dickens, dystopian texts by Ballard (High Rise in particular), utopian cities, social issues, the British Navy. The subject is so rich and exciting that the list never ends. Looking at other artists' work is also key. At present I am totally in awe of the work by Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie. Keith Coventry cuts the mustard too. When it comes to the actual painting it happens in a frenzy of white heat, the thinking takes a hell of a lot longer.
What’s the best thing about the area you live/work in?
I grew up in a really urban, brutalist environment and I feed off the contrast of my current farmland setting with the overcrowding Béton Brut of the Pepys Estate. It was and still is a council estate primarily, and came with all the usual baggage. Contrasted to where I am now it's like ‘chalk and cheese’.
I still have an umbilical cord back to the capital, but find I now get more out of it than I used to, when I lived right in the middle of it running to and from work. Now I enter my studio and it’s just me and my work. I feed off the silence it provides, it focuses my mind and fuels the work. It's cathartic.
What does 'success' mean to you?
Being able to continue to practise as an artist.
Do you earn a living from making art?
Yes. This is where my former life kicks in. I strive to run my practice as a sustainable business and not get caught up in the romance and idealism of it all. It's a balance. The goal is to ensure I can focus as much time as possible in creating the work. Having a family sharpens the pencil too!
What makes a good artwork?
I think a good artwork shows progress from the last.
What have you been up to recently?
It’s been a tsunami since graduating last year and I was flat out until the boys broke up for summer holidays. On reflection, I think I was in too many shows, having had solo shows in Bath and Frome (I won the Black Swan Open in 2016) and been part of group shows in Bristol, Bath, Glastonbury, Bruton, Falmouth, London and China! I’ve also been artist of the month with London-based art consultancy ARTIQ and I took over Mother London’s Instagram account, which was blinding. As I write my work is on display at the Sheppey in Godney and also at the Falmouth Art Gallery.
What have you got coming up?
Converting the ‘pigsty’ and taking the opportunity to reflect a little more on my practice. I want to take the painting to another level. In 2018 I’m taking the work home and am thrilled to announce I will be exhibiting in Deptford with the No Format gallery. I’ll also have a solo show in Brighton and will be part of group shows at the Wilson Cheltenham and at Poole Museum. I am continuing to explore opportunities in China and will be exhibiting shortly in Nanjing and Shanghai. There’s also an exciting collaboration with a film maker. We’ll be making a short about my life on the Pepys and the subsequent art borne out of that experience – watch this space!
Born in London, Steve graduated from Goldsmiths College, London with First Class Honours and then from Bath Spa University with a Masters Degree in Fine Art (Distinction). Hailed as a rising star by The Guardian, Steve’s work is highly sought after and is held in private collections worldwide.
Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.
Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network