Each month one of our Directors chooses an art.earth member to become ‘Artist of the Month’. What follows is a conversation with that artist, together with some examples of his or her work.

This month’s selected artist is Lucinda Burgess (www.lucindaburgess.com) selected by Mark Leahy (January 2019).

  1. Is there a project you are currently working on that you’d like to discuss (perhaps in relation to process, or materials, or subject matter, or showing context)?

Yes I have a well defined project thanks to the Newlyn Art Gallery in Cornwall who have given me a residency/exhibition in late February and early March 2019 in the upper gallery as part of their Transition programme. I will be exploring the boundaries between drawing and sculpture, painting and architecture. The gallery will be open to the public while I work.

This project – ‘Transition’ – is a subject close to my heart. In my twenties and early thirties I spent 11 years in a Buddhist monastery, and the training can really be summed up as an attempt to see at a deep level the moment to moment transience of direct experience; seeing, hearing, tasting, perceiving, thinking, smelling, touching, mental states and so on. The aim was to see there is nothing there we can call ‘I’ and nothing there that is fixed or permanent. As Heraclitus famously said we ‘cannot step into the same river twice’, nothing in experience can be repeated. On one level there is just ‘flow’ or ‘transition’.

At Newlyn, I shall be there working on the exhibition all around me. The exhibition itself will be in transition. The subject is also about transition, it is about the difficulty of defining a fixed thing when there is only ‘flow’. For example when does a sculpture become architecture or a drawing become sculpture? In Borderlines (Jerwood Drawing Prize 2017-18) I explored these boundary lines. The drawing leaves the wall and enters the viewer’s space on the floor. Materials are emphasized and there is no representation. Where does a sculpture begin and a drawing end? ‘Things’ are fluid.

Borderlines Lucinda Burgess 2017 Pencil, paper, (steel support). 170 x 175 x 32cm

In terms of first hand experience, things are labels, or perceptions which arise and pass. In the exhibition I shall be emphasizing the changeability of perception; a piece of paper will be seen as strong, metallic and apparently solid from some angles, but empty, fragile and white from others. I will also try to emphasize the changeability of perception by placing the same thing in different parts of the large gallery space. They will look completely different because of their different contexts and depending on where the viewer stands in relation to them. A tube for example looks like a long line from one angle, and a circle from others, even though they are ‘the same thing’. In terms of first hand experience they are not the same.

  1. Is there an artist you would like to be better or more widely known – because you feel they are important or influential for you, or because you think they have particular significance now?

If it’s OK I’d prefer to highlight an idea (as opposed to an artist) that I would like to be better known. I would like this idea of non-self or no-thing to be talked about more. Just to clarify, it means there are no fixed entities, that there is not one iota of permanence. Whilst this idea may not be couched in the same language exactly, there are many artists who are concerned with this. Roni Horn for example often has as her subject, ideas of identity and mutability. It’s no coincidence that she employs materials such as glass and motifs such as water and the weather, which are by nature subject to continual change. (The natural world exudes this subject.) Other artists like Robert Irwin and James Turrell similarly use materials like glass and light to emphasize the changeability of experience and the changeability of perception. Awareness of change undermines the idea of a fixed identity or entity. It brings us closer to the true nature of things.

Same (detail) Lucinda Burgess 2014 Mild steel, polished and rusting Wall and Floor, each set 29 x 100 x 3cm

  1. Is there a project or publication you would like to share or highlight because it has particular relevance or importance for you as a maker in a wider context of pressures on the environment, climate change, economic inequality, or other themes you feel are relevant to art.earth as a family of artists and thinkers?

The book that has become my bible in recent months is Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary. He is talking about the differences between the left and right brain hemispheres, how they attend in different ways. There are so many gems in this book but a consistent point is that the type of attention we bring to bear on an object determines what is experienced. For example he says ‘A mountain that is a landmark to a navigator, a source of wealth to the prospector, a many-textured form to a painter, or to another the dwelling place of the gods, is changed by the attention given to it. There is no ‘real ‘ mountain which can be distinguished from these, no one way of thinking which reveals the true mountain’. He says, ‘Science, however, purports to be uncovering such a reality. Its apparently value-free descriptions are assumed to deliver the truth about the object, onto which our feelings and desires are later painted. Yet this highly objective stance, this ‘view from nowhere’ to use Nagel’s phrase, is itself value-laden. It is just one particular way of looking at things, a way which privileges detachment, a lack of commitment of the viewer to the object viewed. For some purposes this can be undeniably useful. But its use in such causes does not make it truer or more real, closer to the nature of things’.

Ideas in this book are ones that drive my art practice. I often take one material and then display it in a multitude of guises. It will change depending on the processes applied to it, depending on viewpoint, depending on the light, the perspective, on context and so it goes on. Often the net result is a celebration of the constantly changing and infinite variability of both matter and perception, a variability and beauty that is all too evident in the natural world.

Same Lucinda Burgess 2014 (The one on the wall looks like modernist abstraction, the identical piece on the floor in the door threshold looks like a foot grille. The ‘same’ piece is changed by the differing contexts.)


Lucinda Burgess: www.lucindaburgess.com

Transition 2019 at Newlyn Art Gallery: https://newlynartgallery.co.uk/activities/transition-2019/