Analysis of the Artwork of Ian Burn – an Influential Australian Conceptual Artist

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Ian Burn is an Australian artist and art writer born in 1939 who focuses on conceptual art, an art form which concepts and ideas presented by the artist is considered to be more important than the final result of the art piece itself. In 1964, Burn moved to London working as a picture framer, then moved to New York in 1967 and slowly changed his art style after having discussions about the limits of abstractions with Mel Ramsden. Since then, Burn has been using materials such as glass, mirrors and acetate. He has been involved in the development of the Conceptual Art Movement as well as the New York Branch of Art & Language along with fellow artist, Mel Ramsden.

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The artwork I chosen is formed by two pieces, the first one is the Two Glass/Mirror Piece and the second is the Four Glass/Mirror Piece. These two artworks are made in 1968 using mediums like glass, mirror and wood then joined together to create an intangible interior.

The photographs below show how the two mirrors create a new space from within the frame. Both mirrors are situated in front of one another, with the reflective surface facing each other allowing both mirrors to reflect each other’s surrounding, hence creating a new space which can be seen but not touched. In the photos, you can see that the Two Glass/Mirror Piece is reflecting the Four Glass/Mirror Piece reflecting the Two Glass/Mirror Piece, creating an infinite world for object in the frame.

The work was exhibited in The Field NGV in 1968 and was revisited again in mid-2018 for its 50th anniversary. The exhibition presented 74 artworks from 40 artists who practiced hard edge, geometric, color and flat abstraction.

The Four Glass/Mirror Piece is made using three mediums, mirror, glass and wood. It is made by placing four layers of glass over a mirror and the framed with a wooden frame as shown in an exact copy of Ian Burn’s diagram in his notes. The process is the exact same for the Two Glass/Mirror Piece except instead of four layers of glass, it was just two.

Burn was influenced by Ramsden’s reflective black painting and was captivated by the appeal of the reflective surfaces. During the International Art Movement and Conceptual Art Movement in the 1960s, mirrors begun to rise in the art industry, especially for conceptual art, one of the many rising art forms gaining attention along with pop art, minimalism and kinetic art.

The main reason Burn chose to use mirror was because its surface reflects the environment and the viewers. Another reason would be because of the material itself.

‘‘I initially started working again with materials such as glass and mirrors, because these seemed to offer to me the least amount of visibility, that I could make structures or in some way I could structure perception through using almost invisible materials. It was at this stage I first started making the mirror pieces which were exhibited in The Field, in I968.’’

The effect of using mirrors on the audience emphasizes visual-perceptual instability. “It seems improbable for a traditional ‘psychological depth’ to be attained through perception; the immediate-environment becomes a reflex denying any possibility of being metaphored.”

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