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Artist David Burns has been a regular collaborator of Provide’s, showing his ethereal landscapes at our original shop back when we were still on Beatty Street. His latest works, The Chaos, the Light, the Radiance, is a shift in style and direction for him, and the artist—who’s been collected by famed American artist Richard Prince – chatted with us from his studio in Osoyoos about his latest show in our Provide Design Gallery.

Your latest body of work feels like a new direction for you. You moved to Osoyoos during Covid—has being out in the desert influenced this new series?

Absolutely. I painted ethereal landscapes, where the whole idea is like sitting on the beach and dreaming into the horizon – getting that sense of wonder about nature. And I’ve painted figurative work, and I’ve painted all kinds of different things. The way I look at it is just – I have a busy head, so there’s lots of things in my mind. So many artists find an image or an aspect that works for them, whether it’s structurally or commercially or whatever, and they stick with it. But I feel like you don’t have to do that. There’s lots of examples of artists currently and throughout history who have different motifs throughout their work, and I’ve allowed myself the luxury of doing that. 

And what shifted for you to create this new concept?

So this body of work comes at the end of a previous one where I was painting my imaginary friends over Covid here at the farm. I called it the Rodeo Dance Club at the Love Farm. And it was this whole quirky, joyful, utopian, yearning idealism. 

I put that to bed and then I felt that I really want to paint Spotted Lake, because the mysticism around Spotted Lake is so beautiful. The local band looks on it as having healing and spiritual renewal powers, and they’ve used that spot for thousands of years. And I could just imagine a thousand years ago, people would be camping at this pond, and walking across where my studio is down to Spotted Lake for this ritual of healing there. And that whole idea, the mysticism, the spirituality of the land – I was very aware of that while I was here. 

Over Covid and I spent a lot of time alone. The first winter I was here for three months by myself. And it was Covid, so you weren’t meeting anybody. You weren’t saying hi to your neighbours and going over for a drink. So it was pretty intense and isolating, but fantastic creatively, because I just had all this time to imagine and all this time to wonder. And the landscape was all new and very intense and different from what I’ve experienced. 

One of the things I love about this area around Spotted Lake is when it rains and dries out, there’s a white crystallized mineral that comes out and you see it on the surface of the soil. There’s these amazing white crusts surrounding the water that reflect different colours depending how you’re looking at it. And I thought, I’d love to paint that. 

So I started approaching it as traditional oil landscapes, the way I used to. But I worked on a bunch of them, and it just wasn’t capturing what I felt about the place. So I started editing everything down and getting to these very minimal surfaces that are all about texture—the idea of material realism and how the material is the important thing. And as I was getting to that process, what I was doing was pouring paint on the canvas and bringing the canvases out into the sun and letting them dry really quickly. And it created all this crackle through the paint. And I thought, that’s so fantastic, because it’s echoing what I see on Spotted Lake.

Was your show at Provide the first time showing that whole collection together? 

Absolutely. I painted those paintings and I thought I would really like to put them out into the world – in reality instead of virtually, because so much of my work just gets out into the world virtually. And I thought I’d love them to be in Provide because David has such an amazing aesthetic that he’s developed over the years. And he’s such a joy to work with. I love the vibe that he’s created in his Gallery space. 

I wanted to ask you about some of the names for individual pieces – they’re very playful and funny. 

For me, the whole process of making art is fun. It’s playful, it’s humorous. I mean, it could be dark, it could be all the things. But it’s also joyful, right? You have to be really strong in your vision. You have to bring a lot of joy to the process to create something. That’s my feeling. And so with titles – titles are always so hard for me. So I just collect titles throughout the year. If something strikes me, I’ll write it down. I have a book filled with potential titles. I don’t want the title to describe the image, especially when the images are as abstract as they are, and as minimal as they are, I want the title to add an aspect to it. So, “His Mother’s a Lawyer,” for example. I’ve heard somebody say that, and that just cracks me up, right? And “Honey, Disconnect the Phone,” that’s a line from a Beatles song. I just pull things from everywhere. Anything that resonates.  

And what about the title of the body of work itself?

So this work in my mind was titled, The Chaos, the Light, the Radiance. The reason it’s titled that is I saw a CBC article about scientists who are looking at similar types of heavily alkaline mineral lakes in B.C. as a potential origin soup – a kind of chemical soup for the beginning of life, basically. 


I’m like, Holy shit. Right? And in the photos, they had pictures of the scientists. And in the background, there was a lake that looked like Spotted Lake. The spots weren’t as developed, but it had this white surface, and there were spots to it all. And I thought, Is it possible that a lake like this could be an originator of life? I just kind of riffed off the whole thing: creating and thinking about the chaos of life. And then that feeling when you sit outside and you just look at the wonder of the universe. And the amazement of when you have that wonder. 

I don’t want to get quirky, weird about spiritualism and all that. But I do love the idea of having something that is a devotional practice in my painting. And I think with this, I’ve achieved that in the sense that it’s work that I can continually go back to. It’s so minimal. It really becomes about the paints, really the process of painting the paint. So I can imagine myself for the rest of my life, always having this aspect of my work where I can touch that aspect of our humanity. 

The Chaos, The Light, The Radiance will continue to be on view at Provide Design Gallery throughout the summer of 2024.

A selection of Caroline Blackburn's ceramic work is also included in the show.

Photography by Seth Stevenson and David Burns.

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