Dord Burrough makes abstract paintings to depict poetic memories of places and heart-felt states of mind. Frames become windows to an emotional realm, where the musical language of abstraction and the dynamism of cartoons seem to melt, collide, and explode. Some of her darker works convey agitation through their lines that spring everywhere in a black canvas, while her brighter pieces rely on colourful palettes, set on dense white backgrounds, to depict a slice of serenity.
Burrough complicates our relationship to these moody painterly mirages with titles such as Beach (2020) or Words (2020), creating a strange distance between text and images. These names tell us to see grandiose vistas or impossible concepts while staring at a sludge of paint. The effect is hysterical but also a little harrowing.
The large painting Dolores (2020) from her sell-out show at Melbourne’s LON Gallery in 2020, shows a black void, with colourful lines bouncing in the foreground. The lines twist and coil with ecstatic velocity, while the dreamlike backdrop hides a latent unease. There is also a sense of music in the behaviour of the lines, reminiscent of Kandinsky’s tendency to hear colours. It’s like watching an uncanny musical on stage, where actors behave joyfully in front of a curtain that conceals a more hellish scene.
The title Dolores is a weeping gesture, translating to pain in Spanish. It conveys how we often hide our turmoil to carry on with everyday life, masking low mood with high demeanour – like sad actors singing in a happy play. This darkness stands out amidst more cheerful paintings, which tend to be more uplifting.
Sky (2020) uses a palette of whites and blues to ignite a calming panorama, standing as an inversion of Dolores’ gloomy atmosphere. This work uses a similar composition to Dolores by placing a sweeping line above a vacuum. But the emptiness of Sky is more heavenly and comforting, inhabited by harmonious squiggles that evoke clouds. The word sky invokes wondrous moments; staring at the skies with our first love, or contemplating the infinite possibilities of being young. As a state of mind, this painting exudes an instance of potential, where endless paths manifest in front of our eyes. There is also comedy in this process of association – we are staring at a shapeless, form-less painting, where the sky is utterly absent.
This sense of humour characterises LON’s stable and balances some of the more saccharine imagery, to create pictures full of possibilities. It has also given Burrough wide appeal with collectors, having held consistent sell-outs at LON over the past four years.
Image: Dord Burrough, Beach, 2020. Oil, gap filler and sand on board, 28 x 31cm. Courtesy: the artist and LON Gallery, Melbourne
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 95, JAN – MAR 2021.