The concept for this large installation of drawings in chalk, ash, pastels and powders stems from Catholic grade school, when Mr. Burridge was taught that impure thoughts were a bad thing and would assure his place in hell. This simplistic view of the world was nonetheless confusing to the young Robert. How can a thought be a sin? How can you control your thoughts?
This parochial view of eternal damnation stayed with Mr. Burridge until art college where his exposure to the frisky frescoes of Pompeii, erotic Hindu temple art, Ingres and Delacroix paintings of Turkish baths and Assyrian courts exploded into his burning thoughts. Those early salacious images and erotically charged drawings are central to his inspiration for the charcoal drawings found in IMPURE THOUGHTS. The difference between those early masterpieces and his current drawings is that there is nothing really explicit in his new interpretations. It is the overall erogenous feel of the work that excites the viewer. Intentionally, there are no clear, direct images of human activity. Rather, Mr. Burridge allows the viewer to experience intimacy through the mastery of the medium. The viewer not only looks at the work, but, is engaged by its strong lines, movement and texture.
Mr. Burridge shares, “The sensual process of creating these drawings using the sensory joy of the medium; soft pastel sticks, powered charcoal and pigments and handmade Japanese Kozo paper, were all a part of the romantic and passionate relationship between my work and me. The tactile experience of having the materials crumble and fall apart as I rubbed them into the creamy paper, not only validated my expression, but assured me that the impure thoughts I was having were a good and healthy thing.”
-Muara Johnston, assistant director, San Luis Obispo Museum of Art
My Process for Making “Impure Thoughts”
The process and concept for this exhibition was experimental using ancient drawing mediums.
In the studio, I stapled the seven by seven foot paper to a vertical wall. I sat in front of the paper, cleared my mind, dreamed, fantasized and felt the moments of intimancy that comes when I begin to create art. This art started with a stick of charcoal, an age-old drawing tool - I drew images all over the paper. While I’m drawing, I’m thrown back to those early artists in Lascaux drawing on the cave walls, telling their stories in symbols, animal images and icons. These stories, communicated through line drawings, chronicled their history, important events and experiences.
This exhibition of my drawings began with the idea of doing monochromatic charcoal drawings. This evolved into full color, incorporating pastels, chalks, graphite and pigment powders.
The smaller drawings are from my sketchbook, made before starting the larger ones. The large paper I found in a specialty paper store in Santa Monica, California. I walked into the store and hanging from the ceiling was the seven foot paper. I froze and just stared at this paper, imagining the possibilities of drawing large.
My goals for this exhibit were to create images that I have never made before. I loved the danger, the freedom and the leap to make this large art. It was a physical experience - I rubbed pastel pigments and powdered charcoals, drew with a variety of graphite and charcoal sticks, and some layers were burnished with an orbital sander. I sealed each image with multiple layers of archival fixative. The final drawing surface was sealed with casein, the classic, permanent varnish used during the Renaissance.
“Impure Thoughts… Large Installation Drawings in Chalk, Ash, Pastels and Powders
June 1 - July 22, 2012
San Luis Obispo Museum of Art
San Luis Obispo, California