Art Nomad
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Roger BURNS (b.1951)

Roger Burns is a Melbourne-based artist who creates hard-edge paintings “executed with mathematical precision showing highly detailed draftsmanship”. * The detail of fine lines and sharp contrasts used, as well as distorted perspective and a vibrant, controlled colour palette, challenges the viewer to “jump into the painting and live it”. *

Burns credits his style of hard-edge colourful works to the inaugural exhibition at the opening of the NGV in St Kilda Road in 1968, The Field. ** However, he has “managed to progress beyond that style … by introducing reason and purpose into the abstract illusion of [his] 3D effects, reflections and perspectives to take the work to the next level … [his] work is geometric yet free of restraint”. ***

Roger explores movement, space, place and time in his work, capturing a snap-shot in time of dynamic and moving objects.

He is also inspired by the work of Jeffrey Smart: “His images of the everyday urban environment seen by others as mundane, to him, are worthy subjects for precisely drafted art works of amazing quality that I love. His sharpness of line and colour selection from his unique palette are elements that resonate with me. The urban environment of trucks, containers, signs and line markings on a curving road express his talent for finding beauty in the most industrial environment.” ***

Similarly, Burns’ style is derived from his design background, using perspective and colour to express his ideas in a controlled, but expressive, format. His understanding of construction, balance, style and proportion creates a clash of colours and the disappearance of lines into the horizon as the viewer is drawn into the painting, invited to experience this emersion into a fantasy world. ***

Roger is optimistic in his visions. He says: “I want the viewer to feel good and happy after viewing my work. I want them to enjoy the image and when they walk past it every day, give them a reminder of what is good in life.” *

Burns was born in Melbourne in 1951. An only child, he grew up in a loving family environment during what he describes as the “idyllic 50s and 60s”. ** As a child, Roger was always drawing and creating stories and then translating them into reality. Many of these stories revolved around super-hero idols from the Saturday matinees he would go to see, such as Robin Hood, Zorro, swashbuckling pirates and cowboys and Indians. He remembers spending much of his free time as a child making toy swords and other accessories for these imaginative games in his father’s garage. His recurring creations usually had a construction theme, so tree huts in the back yard were constantly being built and renovated, or demolished and rebuilt, depending on the latest adventure he had seen at a matinee. **

Roger attended Essendon Grammar School. He excelled at Art while there. Whether studying classical art, architecture or modern art, he loved both the Art itself and its history. After studying an artist, such as Henry Moore, he would then attempt to create an artwork in that particular style in the classroom. His art teacher, Ken Kemp, recognised that he had a gift for art and encouraged him to explore and challenge himself. Roger remembers him as a great mentor. ** Every year, his grammar school would enter student works in the Royal Show in Melbourne and Roger was awarded first prize for his paintings many times during his final years at school. He also won several other school and local community art awards.

Burns’ mother nurtured his talent, suppling him with all sorts of craft materials, as well as construction toys, like Meccano. When Roger was around 14, his parents enrolled him as a junior member of the National Gallery of Victoria. Roger and his mother would regularly visit the gallery to view the Masters, or the latest exhibitions, providing him with further inspiration. **

Roger left Essendon Grammar School after completing year 11 and was accepted at Prahran Technical College to complete year 12 and then study for a Diploma of Art. He remembers: “This was heaven for me. I was independent and doing what I loved.” ** However, with money tight at home, Burns abandoned his studies after two years to earn a living. His first job was as a graphic artist sticking down copy for a local printer. Finding the work very boring, Roger left after a short period and went to work for a major retailer in the store planning department. His work there introduced him to three-dimensional design, interiors and interior architecture. He was good at it and loved the work. In 1971, Roger was conscripted into the army for 18 months, doing National Service serving in the Vietnam War. After discharge, the Government paid for his final two years studying for a Diploma of Art and Design at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) as compensation for serving. **

After his degree, Roger worked as an interior designer in an Architect’s office, forming his practical education in architecture and office management. After four years, Roger joined up with another architect to form their own design practice. **

Roger resumed painting again in later life, working from home. Finding his work matured in a short space of time, he took up studio space in Richmond, Melbourne, and now devotes much of his time to his art. Roger lives in Melbourne with his wife, a fashion editor. They have three grown children. Roger has travelled widely, throughout Europe and the US. *

About Roger Burns, Roger Burns Art, 2023 ** Email exchanges with Roger Burns, Emily Ballinger, 23 and 28 January 2023 *** Roger Burns artist philosophy, Roger Burns, 22 December 2022


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