Charles Burchfield, 1893 – 1967

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Celebrated American watercolour painter Charles Burchfield was a natural reference for me. He has had more influence on my work than any other painter that I esteem. His visionary landscape paintings contain wonderfully evocative and poetic depictions of the natural environment in its many moods and manifestations – from insects to wildflowers, to shimmering trees, to the heavily laden approach of a high summer thunderstorm. I find his work to be richly redolent with  sense impressions and aesthetic inventions.

Burchfield’s highly tuned sensitivity and creative imagination fostered a deep alignment with the ever changing dynamics of nature. From about 1943 to 1967 he began to make use of some of the pictorial inventions that he discovered in his early twenties. These devices consisted of notations for sound, vibrations, presence, and atmosphere that could be incorporated into his work. It was due to a continually evolving process within the depths of his creativity that some of his most rhapsodic experiences  were rendered visible in his paintings during this period.

“God’s greatest gift to me is the ability to be astonished anew each year by the almost incredible beauty of a dandelion plant in full bloom.” (Burchfield).

A familiar William Blake quote seems appropriate here:

“To see the world in a grain of sand                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And heaven in a wildflower                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Hold infinity in the palm of your hand                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       And eternity in an hour.”

It is within this context that the artist/poet approaches the mystical domain where corporality merges in an ecstasy of pure being.

Burchfield’s most significant work has its residence in the transpersonal. As such, at its deepest level of expression, it is in accord with the essence of being, the source of creativity itself. He speaks/sings from the level of essence when he says that the world, himself, and the source of creativity merge in a moment of recognition that proclaims the essential unity of all things. He was, in the transpersonal aspect of his work, congruent on his own terms with the twentieth century needs of the image making community to rediscover the epicentre of the creative process. It is from this source, the true destination of Tarnas’s  “…inward turning descent …”, and Klee’s “… primal ground of creation…” that the energies of renewal will eventually give rise to a new synthesis that is taking shape, if we know where to look, beyond the postmodern deconstruction of former cultural conventions.

To become acquainted with some of Burchfield’s work, visit the Burchfield Penny Art Centre website.