Assistant professor at Spelman college, came to Denmark in 1994 to do research on Ronald Burns, as curator for a retrospective exhibition at Spelman college. Extensive professional research produced
a comprehensive catalogue, covering 30 years of exhibitions in Europe and the United States.
Introduction by David C. Driskell
By David C.Driskell
Professor of Art University of Maryland,College Park
I have known the work of Ronald Burns for more than two years but I feel as though I have known his art all of my life.
As a matter of fact,I have . For his art extends beyond the boundaries of his current work into the ranks of countless other artist who have achieved the highest level of craftsmanship in drawing.This does not take away from the strenth of Burns's painting because it is in drawing that Burns
connects with the other major artists before him. He celebrates with them a love for the poetic line, the lyrical play that form takes when created by a caring hand.
Drawing is a medium in which the bare skills of an artist are adroitly given.No single element can evade the eye of a keen observer without being called into question, particularly when it comes to the presentation of meaningful spatial relations in a given composition. I found nothing lacking, undeveloped or rendered in a shallow manner in Burns's work. With an abbreviated line, he is able to define without labor a natural and at times surreal quality in drawing that is rarely seen among artists today.
Condensed into a small compositional space, many ideas take the shape of animals, people, and plants without too much of the whimsical.In some of these works, however, there is satirical narration akin to what Salvador Dali (1904-1989)did in his youthful days. A cartoon-like casualness of form elevates the sensuous quality of many of Burns's compositions.
He can also be playful and serious at the same time.Perhaps, some of the works are autobiographical. If they are, they reveal an especially sensuous world in which a gifted and witty artist enjoys playing the part of bemused visionary.
Reviews of Poul Gammelbo from "Information"
Mental Costumes and Illusions is the title
of the exhibition Ronald Burns has arranged
in Gallery Passepartout Copenhagen.
The paintings reminiscent of the artwork, which was created towards the 1700 (figure of painters) as Marcos Correa in Spain, C.N. Gysbrechts in Denmark and many others. it was the trompel'oeilles, illusion plays, where the objects were painted in such a way that they could deceive the eye, be confused with reality, but also was the selection of objects: candle light was about to burn down, letters and documents . extremely rational. For example, to moralize, talk about life after death, about doomsday. Ronald Burns uses the same effects, such as writing (leaves torn out of a dictionary), not painted as before but pasted on, as collage, artists drew on a background of black with green leaves. Faces almost hidden by hands, slender, almost skeletal. Also triptych form Ronald Burns uses, but not for use as in the religious altar, rather because the shape suits him. There is a blue background, a tree with roots and foliage, a woman in a red jacket, and in the middle of a flock of birds: white doves. There is a strong mind in these paintings that is not surrealism, but rather of worlds where people can meet or lose each other.
In addition, the artist paints with a sure sense of surface effects of shape and color. He knows what he wants. But he is also experimenting.
In one corner the painting "Exit"is hung, it works from two walls, the eye goes inward, the idea goes outwards ("Exit") but also the two women's heads draws one inward, one has has flowers, the other fabric in stripes, and behind are two heads of men,it is intelligent and inspiring art
Poul Gammelbo For Information
Memtal Costumes and illusions er titlen på den udstilling, Ronald Burns har arrangeret af sine malerier og tegninger i Gallerie passepartout København. Titlen er ikke til at oversætte, men vil vel sige sådan noget som sindets kostumer og illusioner.
Malerierne minder om de kunstværker, som skabtes hen imod 1700 tallet af malere som Marcos Correa i Spanien, C.N. Gysbrechts i Danmark og mange andre. det var trompe-l'oeilles, illusions stykker, hvor objekterne var malet på en sådan måde, at de kunne bedrage øjet, forveksles med virkeligheden, men samtidig var udvælgelsen af objekter: Stage med lys der var ved at brænde ned, breve og dokumenter. yderst velovervejet. F. eks. for at moralisere, tale om livet efter døden, om dommedag. Ronald Burns anvender de samme effekter, F.eks skrift (blade revet ud af et leksikon),ikke malet som før, men klæbet på, som collagemalerne gjorde, på en baggrund af sort med grønne blade. Ansigter skjules næsten af hænderne, slanke, næsten skeletterede. Også triptykkens form bruger Ronald Burns, men ikke med anvendelse som i det religiøse alter, snarere fordi formen passer ham. Der er en blå baggrund, et træ med rødder og bladhang, en kvinde i rød kappe, og midt i et bundt fugle: hvide duer. der er et stærkt sind i disse malerier, som ikke er surrealisme, men snarere som verdener, hvor mennesker kan mødes eller blive borte fra hinanden.
I øvrigt maler kunstneren med sikker sans for fladens virkninger, for form og farve. Han kan hvad han vil. Men han eksperimenterer også. I et hjørne er "Exit" hængt op, det virker fra to vægge; øjet går indefter, tanken går udefter ( "Exit")men også de to kvindehoveder drager en til sig, den ene har blomster, den anden stof i striber, og bagved er to mandshoveder. det er intelligent og inspirerende kunst
Poul Gammelbo For Information
Information, 6 October 1971, Copenhagen
Hans Edvard Nørregård-Nielsen
Review of Virtus Schade
Ronald Burns’ Scene
Ronald Burns exhibits until October 16 a series of gouaches in Center Graphique,
It is a strange world of images with strange and silent scenes one enters.
The works of art are without title and addresses to each individual a requirement for sensitive interpretation.
A face desolves in flowers and leaves,like the changed Daphne.
Every detail is drawn and the restricted use of colors used with great effect.
Scenes often told with people who relate to each other behind masks.
Thus, in an image where the scene is Spanish, and a mantilla dressed woman is the only one without a mask, while a man carrying three masks, which reflect different moods.
There are pictures of birds impaled by roses with thorns, and people looking out from behind a curtain.
Where will the artist lead us?
Information 6.oktober 1971 københavn
af Hans Edvard Nørregård-Nielsen
Ronald Burns udstiller til 16 oktober en række gouacher i Center Graphique
i københavn, og kan sagtens fylde en udstilling selv.
Det er en mærkelig billedverden med sære og tyste optrin man her træder ind i.
Bladene er uden titel og henvender sig til hver enkelt med krav om indforstået og følsom tolkning.
Et ansigt opløses i blomster og løv som den forvandlede Daphne.
hvert enkelt detalje er gennemtegnet og de sparsomme farver anvendt med stor virkning.
Ofte fortælles om personer,der forholder sig til hinanden bag maske.
Således i et billede Hvor scenen er spansk, og en mantillaklædt kvinde er den eneste uden maske, medens en mand bære tre masker, som afspejler forskellige sindsstemninger.
Der billeder med fugle spiddet i rosengrene og mennesker,som kikker frem bag et gardin.
Hvor vil kunstneren have os med hen?
It is a cut-out wonderful and romantic world of clowns, birds, flowers, butterflies, women. A theatre
Like world, with an undertone of lament and nostalgia.
Here one stops, some continue others turn away, because Burns’ world is not rosy idyll it purports.
It is a world of horror, pain and rejection. It is a world of illusions, which are broken down. A world of surrealists where a woman is transformed and become a landscape, a strange =fixed = picture. A world in which the artist is consciously trying to make dead things come to life.
Letting nature-morte objects capture the scene, or let the puppets break their strings to seek their own lives. Have the wallpaper image become real life while the “ life” of the livingroom is dead.
The friendly and amiable artist fills his impeccable adventure drawings with horror and pain making scene that lets tragic comedy unfold, because people are actors in their own lives, play comedy and effortlessly switch performances, play new roles in what they previously perceived and expressed as real life.
His technical precision is a obvious requirement for making the images work. His study of fashion
(in the U.S.) has given him the knowledge of past costumes. His study of art (in the U.S.) has taught
him to draw accurate. But life ,here and the U.S. which has bestowed his pictures with a bitter tone.
Among his graceful flowers sit birds that cannot sing , because they are dead.
Ronald Burns scene
Det er glansbilledernes vidunderlige og romantiske verden:
Fuglenes, blomsternes, sommerfuglenes, pigernes og klovnernes verden. En teateragtig verden med en undertone af elegi og nostalgi.
Så standser man ved det. Eller man går videre, og så vender nogle ham ryggen, for, for Ronald Burns verden er aldeles ikke den rosenrøde idyl, den giver sig ud for, Den er en værden af gru, af smerte, af afstandtagen. Den er en verden af illusioner, der brydes ned. En verden som surrealisternes, hvor en kvinde forvandler sig og bliver til et landskab, med forunderlige fixe'rbilleder. En verden, hvori kunstneren bevidst søger at gøre de døde ting levende.
At lade nature-mortets genstande erobre scenen, eller lade marionetterne sprænge deres bånd og søge deres eget liv, eller lade en stues billedtapeter være det egentlige liv, mens stuens eget liv er dødt.
Og den venlige, elskværdige kunstner fylder sine forfuldendte eventyrbilleder med gru og smerte. Han stiller en scene op og lader tragikomedien udfolde sig på den. Fordi mennesker spiller komedie, er aktører i deres eget liv, og fordi de så ubesværet evner at skifte forestilling, spille nye roller i det, de hidtil opfattede og udtrykte som det virkelige liv.
Hans tekniske præcision er en simpel forudsætning for, at billederne fungerer. hans studium af mode(i U.S.A.)har givet ham kendskab til fortidens dragter. Hans studium af kunst ( i U.S.A.) har lært ham at tegne så præcist. Men det er livet (her og i U.S.A.) der har skænket hans billeder den bitre grundtone, og blandt hans kunsts yndefulde blomster sidder fuglene, der ikke kan synge , for de er døde.
By Richard J.Powell
Associate Professor of Art, Duke University
Ronald Burns(b.1942),another African- American artist who settled in Denmark in the early 1960's chose an artistic path which,in many respects, defies the expectations that one might have for a New York City-born,Copenhagen-based,black painter/draftsman. In contrast to the litany of art world "isms" which have proliferated among American artists since the late 1960's,Ronald Burns's work has consistently been preoccupied with line,tone, and detailed renderings of an antiquarian,romantic world.Like the dimly lit corner of an old curiosity cabinet in an opulent,Baroque manor house,the list of artifacts and ephemera visualized in Burns's paintings and drawings is almost infinite:medieval tapestries,brass goblets,homespun lace,soup tureens,Chinese rattan screens,Turkish rugs,venetian masks,the manicured fingers of a dandy,wild philodendron,the torn-out pages from an artist's sketchbook,migrating birds,doublet-wearing monkeys, among other components.Frequently situated against shallow,illusionistic spaces and/or tonal fields,the "stuff" of Burns's art often functions as pictorial metaphors for the living,and even contemporary =memento mori=,evidence of past lives.
Altough not apparent on first glance,Burns's art is also concerned with human,flesh and blood affairs. Bodies weave in and out of the aforementioned collection of things,seemingly in search of a resting place.The faces and gestures of his human figures are at once beautiful and sad,imploring amidst their clutter,as well as in their isolation.
The faces of wives,daughters,mothers,and selves-searing and oracular-populate these art works with a decidedly feminist,non-sexist sensibility.
The possibility that the inhabitants of Burns's art symbolize the at times painful/at other times exhilarating process of finding one's place in the world is not a far-fetched theory,
given their visualization by Burns who, like William H. Johnson in the 1930's, or Beauford Delaney in the 1950's and 1960's,has made a career out of committing to paper and canvas the reconciliation between a remembered past and an observable present.For Ronald Burns's art in particular,the past and the present-which can also mean the antiquarian and the contemporary,youth and adulthood,and/or America and Scandinavia-form the basis for his rarified,pictured worlds and situate him squarely within a discourse on holding an artistic citizenship not just for New York,Paris, or Copenhagen,but for the World-at-Large.
In conclusion,African-American artists in Scandinavia,indeed,are an unusual lot.One might assume that in a geographic region differentiated by long and dark winters,and in cultural territories dominated by Edvard Munch,Alvar Aalto,Ingmar Bergman and Victor Borge, no black American artist would be disposed to making a life and art. Yet epiphanies have been known to occur in the least likeliest places.Even in cold and beautiful Scandinavia,an American can rediscover who they are and find warm,hospitable surroundings.And like the radiant and irrepressible Midnight sun that hovers over the craggy mountaintops and jutting fjords in the mystic north,African American artists,like Ronald Burns,have found a place in Scandinavia that affords them the rare and,ultimately,revolutionary luxury, of just being.
"Midnight Sons: On African-American Artists in Scandinavia" in The Art of Ronald Burns, Atlanta, GA: Spelman College, 1994, n.p.