Andrew Burton’s research explores the creative intersection between sculpture, ceramics, architecture and craft. It has been presented nationally and internationally through public exhibitions, commissions, illustrated lectures, conference presentations and publications. His work has provided opportunities for public audiences to experience unique artworks which embody and combine an articulation of fine art and craft sensibilities, methods and skills. The research stimulates practitioner-led debate around the relationships between the practices and educational disciplines of sculpture, ceramics, architecture and craft.
Burton’s current research expands his enquiry into juxtapositions of scale, relationships between interior and exterior form, and explores processes of making and unmaking. This builds upon his earlier research, including ‘Skyqutb’ where Burton explored how the use of local reclaimed brick in India could speak about aspects of a local landscape, ‘Harker’s Wall’ where he worked with graffiti artists to explore the potential for collaboration in ceramic sculpture, and ‘Cathedral’ and ‘Stell’ where he began using miniature bricks.
Poster for the ‘Brickworks’ exhibition
Developed over five years, ‘Brickworks’ continues Andrew’s practice-based research into the use of brick in contemporary sculpture and into relationships between sculpture, ceramics and architecture. In particular, ‘Brickworks’ explores processes of making and unmaking, the re-use of materials, ephemerality versus ‘permanence’, and notions of site and context.
Jug, fired clay, paint, cement, stain, steel, 2.25m x 1.2m x 0.7m, 2008,
Chimney, fired clay, paint, glaze, stain, steel, cement, 600 x 100 x 100cm, 2008
The project comprises an extended body of sculptures, mostly temporary structures, made from a large set of miniature, hand-made fired clay bricks (using different clay bodies) each brick measuring 4cm x 2cm x 1cm. Many of the works no longer exist in their original form, having been broken up and their constituent parts used for new works. Two works, ‘Chimney’ and ‘Jug’ have reached a final ‘resolved’ form and are now permanently sited in London and Aarhus.
Fragments of blue paint indicate that this pile of bricks was formerly a Brahmin’s house, India
Burton’s approach to source material is key to the development of his work. As a starting point, Burton uses photographs taken during research visits to India, China, Korea and throughout Europe. The photographs illustrate different aspects of the use of brick and how we understand and apprehend its use in architecture. For example, a sense of ‘narrative’ can be engendered by leaving one end of a wall indented to suggest future additions, or a broken wall might infer the enigma of time and human intervention. This informs Burton’s research questions around architecture in relationship to ideas of both permanence and ephemerality as well as site and context.
Jug here shown in the exhibition Passengers & Goods, Stephenson Works, Newcastle upon Tyne 2011. Stephenson works is the old engineering workshop for George and Robert Stephenson
detail from Jug. The work deliberately invited tactile engagement with the audience, being sited in venues where ‘touch’ was welcome.
Chimney, here shown at ‘Andrew Burton – Brickworks’, Jubilee Gardens, Canary Wharf, London. Acquired for the Canary Wharf sculpture collection and now permanently sited at Westferry Circus. Remade from earlier works Stell and Harkers Wall (both 2007)
Initially conceived in response to EKWC’s project Ceramics and Architecture, ‘Brickworks’ was developed between 2008 and 2013. Based on simple architectural forms, the works were made either in the studio or on-site in the exhibition venue, and after the exhibition were often broken up and the component parts reused to make new works. These in turn were exhibited, and then destroyed. Over time, the cement, glaze or paint used to bond the sculptures together became accreted to the bricks’ surfaces, forming a palimpsest–like patina, suggesting residual ‘memories’ of earlier works.
In these various iterations, Andrew explored how the contexts in which the work was shown might emphasise different visual or conceptual readings. At Canary Wharf the sculptures’ irregular and organic looking modular quality juxtaposed with the structure of the surrounding glass and steel architecture. Similarly, at the British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke, Burton exhibited ‘Jug‘ explicitly in the context of demolition sites - the ‘brick fields’ of a post-industrial landscape.
The sculptures have been shown in numerous contexts, including:
Brickworks, Jubilee Park, Canary Wharf, London (7th April – 30th May 2008), curated by Ann Elliot. Funded by an Arts Council Grant and by Canary Wharf Estates with financial support from Newcastle University research fund.
Abhar Mgus Meon: Materials and Mentalities, University College Dublin, World Archaeology Congress Fringe, (June 30th- 4th July 2008) curated by Ian Russell
Ceramics and Architecture, organised by EKWC (European Ceramics Work Centre) for Dutch Design Week de Strijp, Eindhoven (17th-25th October 2009)
British Ceramics Biennale, Potteries Museum, Stoke on Trent (3rd October 2009)
Making and Unmaking: An on-line exhibition curated by Helen Carnac commissioned for the Axis Website
Biennale Internationale de Vallauris Création Contemporaine et Céramique, le Musee Magnelli, Vallauris (2010) – Sculpture Prizewinner
Globe Gallery ‘Offsite’ Think Tank@Hoult’s Yard, Maling Works, Newcastle upon Tyne (23rd April – 21st May 2010)
Passengers & Goods, Stephenson Works, Newcastle upon Tyne (2011)
Tierra del Fuego, Centre for European and Chinese Art, Xiamen, China (2011)
Begehungen Arts Festival, Chemnitzer Forum, Chemnitz, Germany (16th – 19th August 2012)
‘Art Lending Library’ Market Street Gallery, Glasgow
Sculpture by the Sea, the 3rd Biennial Aarhus Exhibition, Denmark (1st – 30th June 2013)
Tierra del Fuego reclaimed brick. Bamboo, wood, steel. 200 x 200 x 145 cm shown at ‘Tierra del Fuego, Centre for European and Chinese Art, Xiamen, China, 2011. Component parts subsequently returned to the sea.
Tholos, fired clay, paint, glaze, steel, glue, 5m x 3m x 2.2.m Maling Works, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2010. Remade from Cathedral.
Enclosure with Ladders for One Thousand Smashed Artefacts, reclaimed Qunig’s red bricks, brick fragments, paint, fired clay. 8m x 8m x 2.2m. Installed by the main exhibition hall of Clayarch Gimhae Museum, South Korea. 2008
Enclosure with Ladders is a site-specific sculpture that explores the use of brick in contemporary sculpture. Conceived as a temporary work, and Commissioned by Gimhae ClayArch Museum, South Korea for their exhibition ‘Redefining Old Architectural Ceramics’, the work was exhibited from August 8th 2008 to August 2nd 2009.
Transcribing accounts of the destruction of the Sungnyemun, the Great South Gate, Seoul
Burton was invited to literally ‘redefine’ a body of architectural ceramics – a very large quantity of old Quing bricks sourced from demolition sites in China. These bricks were invested with a problematic history: they were all that remained from the systematic destruction of historic brick-built architecture in order to create urban space for new development and housing, actions which had involved the compulsory re-housing of people living in buildings scheduled for demolition. As a parallel, museum visitors were asked to recount their reaction to the notorious vandalism in early 2008 of one of Korea’s most emblematic historic buildings, the Sungnyemun, the Great South Gate, Seoul. These accounts were transcribed, edited and stencilled onto the bricks, also ‘victims’ of an act of destruction. The painted bricks were then randomly selected when building Enclosure with Ladders, so that the stencilled narratives recounting a historical narrative became garbled and the original meaning confused.
Above left - Enclosure with Ladders for One Thousand Smashed Artefacts, exterior
Above centre - Enclosure with Ladders for One Thousand Smashed Artefacts, interior
Above right - Enclosure with Ladders for One Thousand Smashed Artefacts, detail
Whilst the unpainted exterior of the completed sculpture suggested a defensive structure, its interior walls gave the impression of being densely worked with colour and fragments of writing.
Enclosure with Ladders for One Thousand Smashed Artefacts
Pen, created for the exhibition S’Imbriquer ,Autour de la Brique, Maladrerie St-Lazare, Beauvias, brick, fired clay, glaze, stain, paint, 8m x 8m x 2.2m, 2011
Bricks provided by the local briqueterie Dewulf
‘Pen’ is a large-scale (8m x 8m x 2.2m) brick sculpture created for the exhibition ‘S’Imbriquer, Autour de la Brique’, held at the Maladrerie Saint-Lazare, Beauvais, France. The central theme for the exhibition was an exploration of the use of brick in contemporary sculpture.
Burton was invited to develop the large-scale site-specific sculpture, ‘Pen’, as a key work for the exhibition, during a period of research and development as the guest of the Agglomerations Beauvais and the Ecole d’Art.
The sculpture combined and extended several of his research themes: the use of brick in ceramic sculpture, juxtapositions of scale, relationships between interior and exterior form and relationships between sculpture, craft and architecture.
Drawing for Pen
‘Pen’ was built on an ancient meadow in the Maladrerie (Beauvais’ former leper colony). The sculpture had to be built without the use of foundations and in such a way that the fabric of the landscape would not be changed. To do this, Burton drew on his earlier research based in and around Delhi, where he had studied and documented brick stacks. Using 60,000 bricks provided by a local briqueterie, Burton worked with a group of students from the Ecole to explore ways of building up bricks to allow both the necessary stability for a publicly-sited artwork, and to conform to the ‘human’ dimensions that were an important aspect to the project.
Appearing at first sight to be a solid structure, access is allowed by a narrow entrance at the back of the sculpture. In the interior space the viewer encountered a metre-high ring built from Burton’s miniature handmade bricks, each one salvaged from earlier sculptures. The surface of each of these bricks was encrusted with a patina-like surface composed of the fragments of paint, glaze or cement that had covered the surfaces of earlier works. Although uniformly a brick structure, unexpected contrasts in scale and the way in which the bricks were stacked also drew attention to the nature and use of the material.
Catalogue for the exhibition ‘S’Imbriquer, Autour de la Brique’.
The exhibition ran from 24th June - 18th September 2011
Sheepfold II: Let me Enfold you in my Icy Embrace was conctructed specifically for the exhibition Kith and Kin II. The exhibition took a unique approach, bringing together artists who usually work in other media, to reveal new approaches and insights into the use of glass.
Let me Enfold you in my Icy Embrace, detail
The use of glass, a substance sharing a material root with clay and with comparable architectural applications, was a logical progression for Burton’s research, presenting new technical, visual and conceptual challenges. Burton proposed a work formed from many thousands of tiny individual glass bricks. Deliberations about how this could be technically realised drew on the academic and technical expertise at National Glass Centre and were solved during a ‘mini residency’ at the NGC. Questions about how a large number of bricks could be made and fixed together were resolved by the decision to laboriously ‘snap’ each brick by hand from sheets (rather than water-jet cut them as originally conceived) and then lay the bricks flat face to flat face.
Let me Enfold you in my Icy Embrace, detail
A ‘crack’ in the wall
The overall proportions of the sculpture were informed by the ratio of the Golden Section, the idea being to produce a form that picked up on the notion of ‘harmony’ that is thought to be embodied in the ratio 1:1.618. Drawing on classical architecture, Northumbrian sheep stell’s and Northumbrian buttresses, the proportions of a sculpture grew out of Burton’s interest in seeking visual richness and meaning in the everyday. Importantly, the use of a UV adhesive that could be safely burnt off allowed Burton to recycle component parts of the work, and the bricks have been subsequently reused for a similar sculpture.
Let me Enfold you in my Icy Embrace, detail
A Northumbrian sheep stell
Let me Enfold you in my Icy Embrace, 40,000 hand broken glass bricks, UV curing adhesive, 2012
Let me Enfold you in my Icy Embrace, exhibited in front of large east facing windows
Exhibited at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland from 21 September – 31 December 2012
‘Buttress’, bricks painted by Kitchener-based street artists
The research themes developed in Burton’s most recent projects have since been taken forward through a number of related projects, many using full-scale bricks. For example, Buttress, commissioned for the CAFKA contemporary art festival ‘Protest and Survive’ held in Waterloo and Kitchener, Ontario extended the aspect of collaboration. Here, street artists worked alongside Burton to create a work where the usual subversive inference of graffiti is turned on its head: in Buttress the graffiti covered structure appears to support the walls of the institutional architecture – the art gallery of Waterloo and Kitchener.
See more about this work here.
Further iterations are also planned for ‘Brickworks’, most notably in the planned reworking of Things Fall Apart for the ‘Monuments’ exhibition to be held at the Sainsbury Centre, UEA in 2014, marking the centenary of the First World War.
Burton regularly works in India, most recently collaborating with a group of village women from the peripheries of Delhi . Here, Burton and the local women created a set of contemporary artworks for the National Crafts Museum in Delhi that drew closely on the local tradition of making bithooras.
'Making Bithooras' proposes a different perspective on collaborative working. To make this exhibition, Burton teamed up with a group of bithoora makers from Ghitorni Village on the edge of Delhi. Bithooras are fuel stores made from thousands of ophlas – hand-sized cow dung cakes and clad with gobar – raw cow dung. Drawing together contemporary visual art and the traditional process of creating bithooras they created an exhibition that fuses Indian and European sensibilities for the relationship between structure, material and pattern.
By situating a group of bithooras in the National Craft Museum in New Delhi, the first time these structures have been seen in this context and by foregrounding the womens' elaborations on their usual practice, the exhibition seeks to assert the importance of these objects, both as spectacular artifacts and as an expression of innate sculptural creativity.
Supported by The British Council, Sanskriti Foundation and Newcastle University HASS Research Fund.
Bithooras par haath pa Chaap National Craft Museum, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. 10th – 30th March 2011. (Andrew Burton, Panna Devi, Keso, Shiv Devi, Lakshmi, Bhagmali, Sharman, Vidya, Pushpa)
For more information, visit:
To hear Burton talk about his work, visit:
Burton’s work has been published in:
Bricks and Bees Andrew Burton
Published by Arts Edition North (2007)
Ceramics & Architecture
Koos de Jong
For more information on the projects mentioned above, visit: