An interview with Richard Burton, Abbey Fellow in Painting, in which he speaks about the work he has produced during his residency at the BSR from January–March 2022, ahead of the March Mostra.
Is it ironic that your portrayal of the banal has become interesting?
I think that the banal can become interesting as soon as it is ‘treated’ or given special attention – and maybe this is slightly ironic, but then that’s part of the appeal. The word banal is probably also a relative term; sometimes it’s hard to know what is banal and what isn’t. Within the context of Baroque churches, classical sculpture and trompe l’oeil ceilings I’m thinking there must be some banality and boredom too… Not everything can be interesting at the same time. But if you paint something lovingly, with all your attention and care, you can elevate it and that can be really exciting, even if it’s just a car seat or a column.
There is a long history of BSR artists engaging with the work of de Chirico. Can you explain how you came to his art and how your practice has been influenced by these encounters?
De Chirico’s early ‘metaphysical’ paintings are so iconic – simple imagery, simply painted, almost like illustrations to a children’s book. It’s hard not to like them. But his later paintings are much weirder and more idiosyncratic. When I was younger they confused me but now I find them interesting because I see them in the context of world-building. The older de Chirico is always recycling the building-blocks of his childhood, trying to make sense of lived experience. I enjoy the way his work reflects a mixture of sensations, like disillusion, wonder, and dread. They quickly pull you in but then you want to get out before you have a panic attack.