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article imageCanadian artist infuses florals with emotion Special

By Cate Kustanczy     Jun 12, 2014 in Entertainment
Toronto - Artist Bobbie Burgers is one of Canada's most celebrated and popular working artists. Known for her lush, large-scale floral depictions, she's had sold out shows for over 10 years. Her latest exhibition explores emotion and the fleeting nature of beauty.
Vancouver-based Bobbie Burgers is a busy woman: a mother of four, wife to furniture-maker Billy Wishloff, in-demand artist. Having received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Victoria in 1996, Burgers, who paints in acrylics, has since gone on to enjoy a successful international career, exhibiting and managing to sell every work she's ever painted. This month, the Canadian artist brings her special brand of painterly botanicals to Toronto's Bau-Xi Gallery for a show called Lovely Fugitive. It explores notions of temporality, longing, and the passing nature of beauty, using flowers as a means of exploration.
The show was inspired by the poetry of French poet and writer Charles Baudelaire, specifically his poem “À une passante“ ("To A Passerby"), published in 1855 but later included in the second edition of the Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil), Baudelaire's controversial 1857 collection of moody, absinthe-flavored work that greatly influenced later French poets, including Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, and Paul Verlaine. French author Victor Hugo (famous for Les Miserables) wrote to Baudelaire in 1887 that the poems in Les Fleurs du Mal were as "dazzling" and "radiant" as stars.
Burgers' work teases out the themes in Baudelaire's work, exploring the passing nature of beauty, the intrinsic pain of longing, and the hypnotic, sometimes dangerously obsessive pull of beauty. As Baudelaire writes in "À une passante": A lighting-flash — then darkness! Fleeting chance
Whose look was my rebirth — a single glance!
Through endless time shall I not meet with you?
This sense of longing is echoed throughout Burgers' colorful, passionate paintings. As the release for the show rightly notes, Burgers' flowers become "equal parts representation and abstraction; both celebration and elegy." The artist recently shared ideas on inspiration, how she got her start, and the contrast between she and her husband's work styles.
What is it about flowers you find appealing as an artist?
Florals, for me, are a beautiful way to engage with colour and movement. Changing from moment to moment, they are intriguing representations of life and death. Flowers have become symbolic creatures for me to play with the boundaries of light, movement, and structure. My brushstrokes are layered; they depict the life cycle of the flower, my own internal charges, and the memories that surface as I paint.
 I want to be able to forge my own path   Bobbie Burgers explains   create my own genre  and not wor...
"I want to be able to forge my own path," Bobbie Burgers explains, "create my own genre, and not worry about where I sit in relation to other artists. I create art that interests me, and that is the only type of art that I will ever be able to create. I will never be able to follow a trend of a group; I am far too isolated from larger art trends. I think that we all just do what we do well, and respect each other for it."
Knot PR
What is the attraction to painting on a large scale?
Flowers are considered precious, feminine, safe, and contained. At least, that is how they have mostly been painted throughout history. By painting flowers large scale, I am able to take what we know about flowers and turn it upside down. Flowers can be wild, persistent, strong, and dynamic.
The large scale of my works make viewers feel intimately familiar with the drips, large brushstrokes, and textures, which are the prized gifts of painting. In an age of computers and the many possibilities of perfectionism and smoothness, I want to exploit the humanness of painting. In the paintings, I am caught — frozen — capturing the pressure of the stroke, the thickness of the paint, the impression I left, the feelings I felt.
Who is your artistic inspiration?
Joan Mitchell is a very important painterly inspiration for me. Her use of colour was so absolutely perfect. She was able to create abstract works that had a sense of place, that make you feel completely transported, whether it be into a garden or into a field of yellow. I love works that establish a sense of place, but leave the details up to the viewer’s imagination to provide.
What do you think drives your immense popularity as an artist?
I paint what interests me. My work comes from a very honest place and a personal journey; I think that connects with people. Over the years, my work has gradually evolved from the literal to pieces that are more about a feeling, a memory, or a sensation, rather than reality. With this change in my aesthetic, I have brought people along with me on the road to abstraction. I may have lost some along the way, but I have gained others.
I find it interesting just how much my audience can vary; I often have men approaching me to say that they would never have thought they would like florals, but they relate to mine. I think this is because my paintings tend to be quite aggressive and strong, instead of precious and delicate.
 Grandness Of the Minutia   Acrylic.  I have parents who never questioned individual creative expres...
"Grandness Of the Minutia", Acrylic. "I have parents who never questioned individual creative expression, and, instead, encouraged it, "Burgers explains. "From the time I was young, the most exciting activity for me was the process of figuring out what to do with a material and just playing with it. Maintaining this curiosity allowed me to become an artist."
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Is there ever any creative crossover in terms of inspiration and ideas between you and your husband (furniture maker Billy Wishloff)?
My husband is the opposite of me in terms of creativity. I am impulsive and like to figure things out as I go along. I don’t plan any of the things I create, they just bubble up. My husband, as a furniture designer, is extremely precise. As they say, “measure twice, cut once.” He likes to think things through very carefully, accounting for all details.
Billy has worked with a lot of artists, helping them with the installation logistics of huge, complex creations. I am really excited that we will be working on our first sculpture installation that I have created, a wall hanging of bronze and ceramic!
Where does Baudelaire's work enter, in terms of your recent output?
My current exhibition, Lovely Fugitive, was inspired by a Charles Baudelaire poem titled “À Un Passante.” In the poem, a man sees a woman in mourning walking down the street. Instantly fascinated by her and drawn to her beauty, he knows that he will never meet her, nor will he ever have her. The collection of work aims to capture the many competing emotions that can arise from a chance encounter.
Bobbie Burgers says the works in her latest exhibition are  about desire  fleeting beauty  and the o...
Bobbie Burgers says the works in her latest exhibition are "about desire, fleeting beauty, and the overwhelming intensity of wanting something that you cannot hold onto, whether it is a feeling, an object, or a person. Due to the very nature of euphoria, no one can ever hold on to it. It exists in brief and unexpected moments, layered in with a host of other emotions. Euphoria cannot exist without pain, heartbreak, desire, and it is this heightened state of realism that I am trying to freeze int
Billy Wishloff
What is the role of the abstract in your work?
I would like to continue to slowly move towards more abstraction in my work. As I wrote in one of my recent artist statements, I feel like I am walking backwards into the future. I am not quite ready to let go of my muses, but I have also moved past the stage of representing a literal flower. Now, I want my paintings to convey a moment in time, a season, a mood, or a memory. As with peonies in Lovely Fugitive, I want the idea of their sweet perfume to come to mind when you look at a piece. Two of my daughters were born in June (just as peonies are at the height of their beauty in Vancouver) and each year the sight of the peonies conjures up intense memories of birth, renewal, and wistful haziness. I am not doing a portrait of a peony – the peonies are giving me a portrait of those memories and emotions.
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