Beyond The Garden Wall

24 Feb — 25 Mar 2017 at the Vigo Gallery in London, United Kingdom

15 MARCH 2017
Beyond The Garden Wall, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Vigo Gallery
Beyond The Garden Wall, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Vigo Gallery

'I’ve explored beyond the garden wall in every direction, on foot and nearly always on my own, mostly running, although I do walk when it feels appropriate. It's not a race or any kind of competition, it’s more a conversation..”

The artist Matthew Burrows lives and works in the rolling hills of East Sussex, his studio on the site of an old windmill perched on a ridge between valleys. Despite the beautiful views and clear vistas, Burrows sense of place is far from sentimental. His relationship with habitat is not one of description or nostalgia, but one of dwelling and ritual. It is a process of mythologising, of drawing meaning from the particularities of the environment, of realising its wilderness and ours.

One has to be careful not to take this literally, Burrows speaks through analogy and metaphor. The exhibition includes images that may or may not be landscapes or figures. Their titles suggest reference to the mystic’s landscape of solitude and temptation, a paradise of emptiness and rage, a country of madness and silence.

These paintings are reflective, thoughtful and slow to reveal complex structural spaces filled with marks, shapes and pigment. The paintings on board use thin washes of oil paint scrubbed and scratched into and across the surface creating strange half states where colours and images hover on the edge of description. Painting on gesso grounds, Burrows creates an unusual softness across the hard and porous surfaces: fast and slow, thick and thin, rough and smooth. He finds his reality in paradoxes and thresholds rather than objective certainties. Black and white works on canvas throw a graphic shadow. Using charcoal and acrylic paint Burrows collages new canvas onto the surface building and editing images and shapes. His wilderness is not something to fear but a solitude to embrace. It is the necessary contrast to culture, a place where language is unnecessary and ambition silenced.

In previous work Burrows described himself as the metaphorical gardener. Like the gardener he cares and nurtures, creating a potential paradise within the borders of cultivated nature. Over the garden wall explores nature as wilderness. In the paintings ‘Wall’ 2017 and ‘Bush ’2017 Burrows explores the garden's actual and mythic boundaries. The garden wall or hedge might demarcate our personal and domestic borders, offering protection and affirming status. For Burrows the work of painting is in making us whole, with all our failings and idiosyncrasies. These paintings make themselves vulnerable; they display their faults and wounds without shame. They leave unmade their form and surface, finally asking for our participation in putting them and us together.