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Nicholas Burton

Nicholas Burton

Painter, Artist

Nicholas Burton’s visual stories are told through relentless riveting and denting of hard metal into malleable surfaces. Complex patterns appear as detailed ‘braille-like’ etchings in aluminium. Burton’s metallic landscapes draw the essence out of the everyday object and awaken our spiritual connection to the land.

Nicholas Burton, twice a finalist in the Sulman Art Prize, began as a scenic artist whose career highlights include the Head Scenic Artist on the opening and closing Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympics 2000. With this illustrious background his inclusion in the January 2004 Australian Art Collectors – Australia’s Most Collectable Artists list, occurs amongst a series of critical and commercial accolades.

Burton works in metal, as he enjoys the reflective nature of the material and the way the surface can be manipulated and dented. He endeavors to construct the works so as to appear light in contrast to the weight of the metal against the colour of the paint. Burton often uses pinks in his works to represent humanity or in some cases human intervention. The artist is motivated by danger and a desire to escape. His work represents the combination of a journey’s starting place and its’ final destination.
His visual stories are told through relentless riveting and denting of hard metal into malleable surfaces. Complex patterns appear as detailed ‘braille-like’ etchings in aluminium. His 2011 exhibition “flight” featured the artist’s pre-occupation with Chinese culture (he speaks Cantonese) and the sensation of flying and objects in various stages of flight. Burton lived in Fujian Province, China for a few years recently where his small studio only allowed for intimate smaller scale works.

Nicholas Burton completed a B.A. in political science and sociology at the University of New South Wales and also spent time at Julian Ashton Art School. Burton was, for the second time, nominated in Australian Art Collector’s ‘50 Most Collectible Artists’ annual list for 2005 and was a Sulman prize finalist twice, in 2002 & 2007.

“My paintings are, in some ways, puzzles to me. They are about repetition of everyday life and the weight it can inflict, the colour and darkness it can produce, the nightmares and lightness that swirl around us. I love the irregular patterns that creep into our lives battling the attempts that are made to carve uniformity into everything. Often people strive for perfection but sometimes imperfection is what makes things perfect to the eye of the beholder. My squares are not always straight and my circles are not always round.

It’s always refreshing when artists advance their work with a unique approach to the method of making art. Nicholas Burton employs a unique choice of medium to produce alternative views of the world we live in. He offers abstract landscape images that range from interpretations of a regimented suburbia to the untamed bush. Reg Richardson says if you’re looking for decorative art, “then Burton should be in your frame. His work is attractive, competent and with a number of sell out shows, he’s going places.”

Burton’s chosen medium is high key coloured enamel paint on dented, scratched or in some other way rendered imperfect metal. The bright hues and intentional scars on the surface provide an interest that intrigues and invites the viewer. What seems alien at first glance or seen from a distance, subtly alters when approached, and may be redefined when investigated at close range. In Burton’s work the uniformity and perceived perfection of daily life is replaced by defects of reality. Those pimples, dimples and other subtle imperfections on the surface of the work suggest life’s little annoyances.

The result of this unusual approach to painting is that Burton succe sfully creates the ideal means of communicating aspects of a flawed environment, then gives viewers permission to correct it by interpreting the imperfections according to their own way of seeing. The most satisfying aspect of Burton’s well conceived and constructed art, and his personal artistic vocabulary, is that it can be decoded by the imagination of the viewer.

– Judith McGrath, Aust Art Collector 50 Most Collectible Artists, 2004


Nicholas Burton is a self taught artist who graduated with a BA ( political science and sociology) at UNSW before becoming a full time exhibiting artist in 2001. He worked for over 20 years as a scenic artist in film and television.  Nicholas is represented by galleries in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The artist currently resides in Sydney.

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