A Short History of Large Works

A Short History of Large Works


Dates: Wednesday 8 March - Saturday 1 April 2006

Opening: Tuesday 7 March 6-8pm

Artist: Terry Burrows

An exhibition of densely detailed large-scale paintings, semi-figurative in style, that span ten years of Terry Burrows' art practice.


In this selection of large paintings from various periods of Burrows' art practice, there is a sumptuous quality to working at this scale, in which cinema famously exerts its immersive affect, and certainly in the six panels of 'Untitled #3 1998' there's a tendency for the viewer to fall, albeit at a distance, into its ambiguously cosmic depths in a game of scale in which the micro opens up to the macro1. However, much more than the mere size of the sublime's dwarfing scale is in operation in the majority of these large scale works. It's the density of the detail which builds up and which one can liken to Manovich's fascination with the ability of computer compositing to layer a scene with objects and details over and over (a style, which in turn derived from the density of object-placements in the Dutch still lives of Vermeer). The layering adds a richness and depth to Burrows' singular, but paradoxically multiple, systems of repetitions in which the modular variety of simple number and letter sequences such as A and B from 1-30, 'Untitled #2 1995-9', are randomly but thoroughly articulated. The inherent system provides the quality which holds the multitude of panels together through a principle of immanence2 experienced as affect.

Before any of the slower acts of cognition can articulate the common threads of a story or system, the immanent principle is at work in the style, lending a cohesion to the lavish compiling of detail. Painterly quality varies from sheer and transparent to intensely opaque. Systems upon systems intertwine, figure against style, in a mode of modular variation in which single elements compound to a rich mosaic of difference and repetition.

Burrows has developed the visual equivalence of a tonal scale - one qualitative, registering variance in opacity, another the limited repertoire of Burrows' semi-figurative shapes which are played as singular or as pattern, in a further game of presence or absence. There and not-there, object and non-object: this articulation of the negative and what's not cuts deeply into a metaphysics of existence which has no solution. If at times the work submits to a state of non-being, it's because the work is continually unfolding into shifting relations until all that can be counted upon are certain expansions and condensations in the patterning. 'Untitled #2 1995-99' aesthetically resolves without offering resolution of the deeper metaphysical underpinnings, an occulted meaning striving to appear underneath the generation of its strictly regular patterning: A1, A2- B29, B30, etc. Implied is a system of sacred numbers or pattern which recalls the visual practice of the Torah, or Islam. Or, even the principles of Aboriginal or Celtic patterning which cover over in order to signal that deeper revelations are only for initiates. Burrows' teasing wisdom is more secular, aiming at a density of object and field in order to provoke, not solve, the logic of an immanent system.

Ann Finegan 2006

1 Lev Manovich, in The Language of New Media, noted this variability as one of new media's core qualities, along with compositing, modularity and transcoding, all operations which can be found in Burrows' large works. 2 Deleuze is a key philosopher of relations of immanence, a fundamentally materialist epistemology of behaviours (ethology). See The Fold or A Thousand Plateaus