In my painting I have dealt with a number of subjects that portrayed both my interior world
and my exterior world, and in most I attempted to combine the two.The act of painting itself
is in many ways a portrait of the artist’s interior world.
In 1998 I was indeed fortunate to travel the fabled route of the ancient Silk Road by rail from Beijing to Kashgar in the westernmost part of China. The very mention of the words “Silk Road” stirred up my western imagination with images of ancient Chinese dynasties and sensuous delights. As an artist and history buff I anticipated the journey with relish.
This brief glimpse of China surpassed even my somewhat large expectations. I was well aware that it would take far longer than the time we had available to plunge into the depths
of understanding the country’s true psyche would require or to fairly judge the system of government. Well aware of this limitation, I became a sponge for visual perceptions – the lifeblood of artists. The best way to record the constant bombardment of visual stimulation
to western eyes was with the camera.
The multitude of Chinese people was endlessly interesting and beguiling. Westerners are
fairly unaware of the many different minority groups in China that enrich the fabric of its culture. Some are the subject of my works. People from the New World are always struck
by the appearance of an ancient land. They look just that. Riding the rails along the Yellow river as it snaked its way through lush mountains and lunar like landscapes snatching
fleeting glimpses of village life I marveled how after so many eons it could still give and sustain. To pass overland through the starkly beautiful terrain of the Gobi desert to confront the richness of Buddhist cave art that rises with equal splendor as does the Sistine chapel from the richness of Renaissance Rome is awe inspiring. Click, click and click, images, images and images, in rhythm with the wheels. How to distill them all? Postcards are
images; paintings are to reveal what is seen and what is felt.
It took some time after my return to filter out what I wanted to convey with these works. I labored over the meaning of the words – impressions, images, reflections and memories.
The works are all that those words convey. What I was left with was a desire to convey the richness of the personal environment and the importance of decoration, design, texture and colour in this ancient culture. The simplest object can be a work of art. At first my images
were literal recollections. As I continued these memories became more and more abstract. The impressions had been distilled to an essence.
Coming from an environment of modernity where minimalism is lauded, the constant
tapestry of intricate designs, even in paving stones or inside a Kazak’s yurt, is like looking
at the backside of a mirror from going inside it.
Alice Burton, 2002
SILK ROAD AND BEYOND
Several paintings from this collection were exhibited at the Jamie Kennedy restaurant - Royal Ontario Museum
from June 4 to September 1, 2002.
"Alice Burton's paintings are about memory and discovery,
like layers of pattern, colour, smell, taste and light wafting
back in fragments when recalling an adventure into the
unknown. Neither narrative or completely abstract, they
conjure up the experience of travel with its unexpected juxtapositions, half remembered textures, and awakening
of the senses."
Ming Tiampo Phd, Curator