Painted urban view, from upper window of a Charlottetown apartment, common city experience, by Brian Burke

Art-making is an expression of identity, often addressing the meaning of home and community. Artist Brian Burke's painting can be used as a means to explore links between identity and geographical location, investigating representation of home and such ideas as family, community, nation and internationalism, as well as absence or loss of home (e.g. via exile, immigration, poverty).

Brian Burke, Waterfront #1
1990
CAG 96.9
© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.


About the artist

Brian Burke was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in 1952. He studied design at Holland College in the early 1970s and then attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. Burke returned to Prince Edward Island where he lives and paints at his residence in Dalvay-by-the-Sea. He has exhibited his work in solo exhibitions in Canada, the United States, and Switzerland. He has also participated in group exhibitions across Canada and the USA. An early influence was American Eric Fischl, his painting instructor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, who was making abstract paintings at the time. Burke combines the representational with abstraction. He is not just painting figures or sites, but is concerned with capturing psychological states of being. About the work

Each work of Burke's, including Waterfront #1, seems to tell a story. His starting point is often a familiar person or location. Here, the image identifies the artist's former residence in downtown Charlottetown and the particular view from the dwelling. Although recognizable, however, Burke is n Read More

About the artist

Brian Burke was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, in 1952. He studied design at Holland College in the early 1970s and then attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. Burke returned to Prince Edward Island where he lives and paints at his residence in Dalvay-by-the-Sea. He has exhibited his work in solo exhibitions in Canada, the United States, and Switzerland. He has also participated in group exhibitions across Canada and the USA. An early influence was American Eric Fischl, his painting instructor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, who was making abstract paintings at the time. Burke combines the representational with abstraction. He is not just painting figures or sites, but is concerned with capturing psychological states of being.

About the work

Each work of Burke's, including Waterfront #1, seems to tell a story. His starting point is often a familiar person or location. Here, the image identifies the artist's former residence in downtown Charlottetown and the particular view from the dwelling. Although recognizable, however, Burke is not interested in representing his images realistically. He does not paint distinct features, but the figures still reveal emotion. The scene in this painting is smudged, blurred, and undetailed. He creates sparse, dark, and sombre-toned settings that reinforce the characteristic ominous mood of loneliness and desolation. Figures are often at the front of the painting in the spatial composition. His range of paint tones is limited - he uses a limited palette of "smoky" colours. There is not a lot of detail. It is this combination of elements that reinforces the mood of the painting in many of Burke's compositions. The outer landscape corresponds to an inner landscape. The abstraction gives the subject an air of permanence, isolating them from the reality of constant change while appearing to be realistic.


© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.

Jane Ash Poitras' representation of the indigenous experience in Canada

Consider the "maps" of these artists, from Brian Burke's window perspective to Jane Ash Poitras' representation of the indigenous experience in Canada. Each has chosen alternative methods to create a conceptual map of home and a subjective representation of place. If you were to design a map of your home or city, would it follow convention, geometrically plotting the relationships between streets and neighborhoods, or would it represent urban space conceptually and personally?

Jane Ash Poitras, Those who share together, stay together
1997
CAG 96.8
© Jane Ash Poitras. Collection of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery


Consider the description of London drawn from Virginia Woolf's Night and Day and her use of the character to create a mapping of the city and its experiences and elements. What features of the character's personal cartography – streets, locations, buildings, signs – stand out? Describe how elements such as gender, class, and ethnicity might shape use of space and of the landscapes and sites that might be part of daily movement in the city.

Create a list of such sites in your own social map tracing your movements today and using Mapquest, generate a map of your city or community. Locate the features you have listed on the map. Then generate a representation of your city or community in the creative form of your choice that  "locates" some of  these features as well.
Of all the hours of an ordinary working week-day, which are the pleasantest to look forward to and to look b Read More

Consider the description of London drawn from Virginia Woolf's Night and Day and her use of the character to create a mapping of the city and its experiences and elements. What features of the character's personal cartography – streets, locations, buildings, signs – stand out? Describe how elements such as gender, class, and ethnicity might shape use of space and of the landscapes and sites that might be part of daily movement in the city.

Create a list of such sites in your own social map tracing your movements today and using Mapquest, generate a map of your city or community. Locate the features you have listed on the map. Then generate a representation of your city or community in the creative form of your choice that  "locates" some of  these features as well.


Of all the hours of an ordinary working week-day, which are the pleasantest to look forward to and to look back upon? If a single instance is of use in framing a theory, it may be said that the minutes between nine-twenty-five and nine-thirty in the morning had a singular charm for Mary Datchet. She spent them in a very enviable frame of mind; her contentment was almost unalloyed. High in the air as her flat was, some beams from the morning sun reached her even in November, striking straight at curtain, chair, and carpet, and painting there three bright, true spaces of green, blue, and purple, upon which the eye rested with a pleasure which gave physical warmth to the body.

There were few mornings when Mary did not look up, as she bent to lace her boots, and as she followed the yellow rod from curtain to breakfast-table she usually breathed some sigh of thankfulness that her life provided her with such moments of pure enjoyment. She was robbing no one of anything, and yet, to get so much pleasure from simple things, such as eating one's breakfast alone in a room which had nice colors in it, clean from the skirting of the boards to the corners of the ceiling, seemed to suit her so thoroughly that she used at first to hunt about for some one to apologize to, or for some flaw in the situation. She had now been six months in London, and she could find no flaw, but that, as she invariably concluded by the time her boots were laced, was solely and entirely due to the fact that she had her work. Every day, as she stood with her dispatch-box in her hand at the door of her flat, and gave one look back into the room to see that everything was straight before she left, she said to herself that she was very glad that she was going to leave it all, that to have sat there all day long, in the enjoyment of leisure, would have been intolerable.

Out in the street she liked to think herself one of the workers who, at this hour, take their way in rapid single file along all the broad pavements of the city, with their heads slightly lowered, as if all their effort were to follow each other as closely as might be; so that Mary used to figure to herself a straight rabbit-run worn by their unswerving feet upon the pavement. But she liked to pretend that she was indistinguishable from the rest, and that when a wet day drove her to the Underground or omnibus, she gave and took her share of crowd and wet with clerks and typists and commercial men, and shared with them the serious business of winding-up the world to tick for another four-and-twenty hours.

Thus thinking, on the particular morning in question, she made her away across Lincoln's Inn Fields and up Kingsway, and so through Southampton Row until she reached her office in Russell Square. Now and then she would pause and look into the window of some bookseller or flower shop, where, at this early hour, the goods were being arranged, and empty gaps behind the plate glass revealed a state of undress. Mary felt kindly disposed towards the shopkeepers, and hoped that they would trick the midday public into purchasing, for at this hour of the morning she ranged herself entirely on the side of the shopkeepers and bank clerks, and regarded all who slept late and had money to spend as her enemy and natural prey. And directly she had crossed the road at Holborn, her thoughts all came naturally and regularly to roost upon her work, and she forgot that she was, properly speaking, an amateur worker, whose services were unpaid, and could hardly be said to wind the world up for its daily task, since the world, so far, had shown very little desire to take the boons which Mary's society for woman's suffrage had offered it.

She was thinking all the way up Southampton Row of notepaper and foolscap, and how an economy in the use of paper might be effected (without, of course, hurting Mrs. Seal's feelings), for she was certain that the great organizers always pounce, to begin with, upon trifles like these, and build up their triumphant reforms upon a basis of absolute solidity; and, without acknowledging it for a moment, Mary Datchet was determined to be a great organizer, and had already doomed her society to reconstruction of the most radical kind. Once or twice lately, it is true, she had started, broad awake, before turning into Russell Square, and denounced herself rather sharply for being already in a groove, capable, that is, of thinking the same thoughts every morning at the same hour, so that the chestnut-colored brick of the Russell Square houses had some curious connection with her thoughts about office economy, and served also as a sign that she should get into trim for meeting Mr. Clacton, or Mrs. Seal, or whoever might be beforehand with her at the office. Having no religious belief, she was the more conscientious about her life, examining her position from time to time very seriously, and nothing annoyed her more than to find one of these bad habits nibbling away unheeded at the precious substance. What was the good, after all, of being a woman if one didn't keep fresh, and cram one's life with all sorts of views and experiments? Thus she always gave herself a little shake, as she turned the corner, and, as often as not, reached her own door whistling a snatch of a Somersetshire ballad.

The suffrage office was at the top of one of the large Russell Square houses, which had once been lived in by a great city merchant and his family, and was now let out in slices to a number of societies which displayed assorted initials upon doors of ground glass, and kept, each of them, a typewriter which clicked busily all day long. The old house, with its great stone staircase, echoed hollowly to the sound of typewriters and of errand-boys from ten to six. The noise of different typewriters already at work, disseminating their views upon the protection of native races, or the value of cereals as foodstuffs, quickened Mary's steps, and she always ran up the last flight of steps which led to her own landing, at whatever hour she came, so as to get her typewriter to take its place in competition with the rest.1

1 Virginia Woolf, Night and Day, 1919. This work is in the public domain. The complete text of the novel is available at http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext98/niday10h.htm.


© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

These materials are intended to be used at the secondary level to address art education, language arts, and social studies curriculum outcomes. Students will (be expected to):

Social Studies

  • apply concepts associated with time, continuity, and change
  • research and describe historical events and ideas from different perspectives
  • identify, evaluate, and use appropriate primary and secondary sources to learn and communicate about the past
  • use spatial concepts and models to interpret and make decisions about the organization, distribution, and interaction of physical and human phenomena

Language Arts

  • ask discriminating questions to acquire, interpret, analyze, and evaluate ideas and information
  • generate questions as a guide to research
  • examine relationships between different forms of expression

Visual Arts

  • derive images through the study of historical images from their own and other's cultures
  • investigate visual communication systems as integral to everyday life

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