Artist Steve Burden – Watercolour Experiments

Artist Steve Burden features in our upcoming watercolour films which explore the diversity and versatility of the medium. Filming commenced this week at Bath Spa University and we caught up with Steve to discuss his experience of working with watercolour.

Steve, thank you for taking part in The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition films. The pieces you produced during filming are hauntingly beautiful, can you talk us through this body of work?

I grew up on the Pepys Estate in Deptford, London and am currently painting a body of work that reflects on my experiences there. The place was (and still is) a very rough council development and my memories growing up there were primarily ones of survival and sadness. The clown is one of the metaphors I am using to signify the antitheses of happiness. It’s a dark and foreboding series of paintings.

Your work is very much about destroying the painted image, how did you achieve this using watercolour?

I like the immediacy and speed of using watercolour – it’s very much akin to how I like to paint – with energy and an element of not knowing what is going to happen next .  Washing the initial image provides that element of chance and creates beautiful marks in the process. Watercolour’s not as toxic as oil and it’s very easy to erase or degrade the image with just water. It’s a lot cleaner too!

Did you discover any techniques during the watercolour project that you will use moving forward?

Definitely – the speed in drawing the initial image, the brushmarks, the erasing of the image with water and the effect you get when you apply watercolour to a soaked surface – it provides an ethereal haunting image.

It was certainly refreshing to see watercolour used in such an innovative way.  Did you find the fluid nature of watercolour encouraged experimentation?

I really think the nature of the medium encouraged this, it’s a lot cleaner to use than oil paint and the clarity that the water provides has a beautiful quality. Tonally the images created are softer but you can still create wonderful gestures with the paint.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions in the pipeline for 2016? 

I am concentrating on a body of work centred around my experiences on the Pepys Estate as a child. This work will be exhibited at Bath Spa University in May and then at Fringe Arts Bath in June. I’m also exhibiting alongside Mariele Neudecker this year and my MA in Fine Art culminates in a show at the end of September – that’s enough for the time being!

Steve washes the painting after marking out the image to create an ethereal aesthetic.

Steve washes the painting after marking out the image to create an ethereal aesthetic.

The clown is used as a metaphor to signify the antitheses of happiness.

The clown is used as a metaphor to signify the antitheses of happiness.

Steve strives to capture the emotive object of any subject that he paints. Bodies of work are typically preceded with a noun or an adjective that he finds topical and interesting; from these stimuli the paintings follow.

Steve strives to capture the emotive object of any subject that he paints. Bodies of work are typically preceded with a noun or an adjective that he finds topical and interesting; from these stimuli the paintings follow.

See more of Steve Burden’s work here.

Feeling inspired? Enter this year’s Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.

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