This February we are presenting new work by Stephen Burke, a multi-disciplinary artist and curator working between London and Dublin.
Burke’s ambitions are to highlight a new visual understanding within our built environment, focusing on elements of communication. He explores the cultural divide between street and gallery, blurring the line between high and low art, while offering a passion for the acts of creativity that happen within our everyday lives. Burke is interested in cities’ social fabric and how architecture attempts to bring order to these spaces. His practice makes visible and finds meaning in many inconspicuous components of large cities that would otherwise only marginally attract our attention.
Burke produces photographic documentation of urban areas focusing on traces of antisocial behaviour, waste excess and utility elements. He photographs the residue from graffiti removal, broken fencing, sprayed construction markings and stained mosaics, a type of urban decay voyeurism that can be linked with psychogeography. Using this ‘visual waste’ Burke builds his own painterly language. The resulting works are testimonials to the dialogue between those who mark public space and those who clean it, reinforcing the idea of public space as a contested arena.
The use of steel, tiles and street furniture within his work underscores the systems implemented through architecture and speaks of the cityscape’s materiality. These systems are juxtaposed through mark-making and staining, using pollutants, emulsion, adhesives, electrical sanders, spray paints and various other manipulations; think accumulations of chewing gum, scrubbed away graffiti and glazed layers of glue. The relationship of clean and unclean references the sociological tension between order and disorder while simultaneously implying degeneration and vandalism. These ideologies are reflected in our cities and their constant state of both construction and deconstruction.
Stephen Burke graduated with an MA in painting from the Glasgow School of Art in 2018 and is a recent recipient of the Unit 1 Gallery Workshop residency. He co-founded the London based curatorial collective Pigeon Park, which organises exhibitions in industrial spaces. This project was created in response to the post-pandemic threat posed to artists’ working conditions in the wake of the Covid crisis. Burke is the founder of the social media platform Post Vandalism which explores the academics/aesthetics of graffiti mark-making processes and fosters support from a wide international community. He is also the managing director of Unruly Gallery in Amsterdam.