aPpraise: Alberto Burri - "Form & Matter ", Estorick Gallery

What a gem of a gallery the Estorick was! I had neither visited nor heard of this little gallery tucked away off the beaten track in Highbury - definitely worth a visit and theres a cute cafe if you need a breather which I certainly did from the goodies in the show.  It's quite astonishing that this is the first retrospective show of this artist in the UK - tragedy! His work has been a fountain of inspiration for well renowned artists including Rauschenberg (who visited Burri's studio in fact). 

 'Matter' being the key word from the show title, again like Kiefer, materials and process were central to the work of this Italian Arte Povera artist who lived between 1915-1995. He used a wide variety of 'humble' materials including sacking, twine, tar, cellotex, plastic and quite literally 'painted' with them. In reference to my own work, I really enjoy using found materials partly because  had I have a bee in my bonnet about 'waste' and environmental issues and partly because there are often distressed elements in the found materials which reflect the journey of the materials themselves and give a basis upon which to work upon.

What was also interesting for me was the development of Burri's work which initially began with more figurative painting work then moved to more abstracted work which were inspired by Paul Klee. 

From this....

to this...."Sacking & Red" 1954

He then moved to challenging the 2d nature of his work which he then carried on through over the course of his career. This is something that in particular resonates with my own work as I like to re-view 2d and 3d forms and push the materials. Made me reflect on the 'constant' evolving of work and giving space for new ingredients. 

Close up " Sack" 1953

Its worth pointing out that Burri also incorporated stitching into the canvas which often seemed like stitched flesh - this probably reflected Burri's medical background where he served as a doctor during the Second World War. With this is mind, its important when making work, with an art practice, not to disregard or wipe out skills/knowledge from the past which may not obviously seem relevant to creative work.

"Iron" 1960

Moving on to another room in the gallery and also a new method of working in Burri's career, Burri then started to integrate the use of fire as the transformative element along with using more synthetic materials ugh as insulating board material - cellotex. With this he produced the 'Cretti' series which resembled dry scorched earth.  He had previously experimented with 'scorching' materials like paper, which resulted in an amazing piece below. I was thinking of possible ways to experiment with fire and safety issues...might have to wait til its a bit warmer and go work in the garden. 

"Combustion" 1958 (Scorched paper)

"White Cretto" 1975 

The final room was a bit of a disappointment after the crescendo with the previous two rooms. All the work was black so very oppressive, but not only that, the material and method were exactly the same, with just mild variations of a line. They were smaller versions of the White Cretto above but in black. However one little treat was a sketchbook page which made up for it!! Me and sketchbooks...thats another story! The shows on until April 17th so salivate whilst you can.... 

Sketchbook page
My sketches from the show

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