Peter Burke brings Californian inspiration to Bath for Earthworks at Victoria Gallery

By Culture24 Reporter | 06 January 2011
A photo of a sculpture of hands in the middle of a clay square of mud
© Peter Burke
Exhibition: Earthworks, Victoria Gallery, Bath, until February 5 2012

"For some time I have been drawn to the quote from Heraclitus, 'you cannot step in the same river twice'," says Peter Burke.

"In response to this, I cast 30 replicas of the feet of the groundsman at the Djerassi Residents Artists Program, whose family have been in San Mateo County [California] since the mid 1800s.

"I arranged them on an old logging trail through a creek, and left them to be consumed by natural processes.

"This body of work is my attempt at exploring our relationship with our natural environment. For my subject, I have worked with people who have a connection with the Bath area."

Beyond the captivating sculptures, there's a deep sense of history and the meetings of man and matter which stretches from South America to Somerset in Burke's work.

In 2005, he took up his heady stay in the West Coast mountains of Santa Cruz. The residency inspired him to turn his hand to the earth.

"My desire was to get right back to the basics of making, as a means of exploring of the relationship between people, a sense of place and the earth," he says, drawing on the prehistoric housing designs of American Indians who built homes in California.

A pupil of mass production, standardisation and industrial processes, Burke recreated their use of adobe, a type of building material made of sand, water, clay and organic matter which is dried in the sun.

"The casting of adobe bricks using moulds is thought to have been introduced by the early Spanish settlers," he explains. "From the locally sourced clay and grasses I developed a method of casting sun-baked adobe forms.

"My response to this vast, humbling and sublime landscape was to think in terms of making transient sculptural interventions which had minimal impact upon the land and would soon be absorbed."

Dug up within a 20-mile radius of his home, you can smell the mud and grass of top soils which include ones from his own remodelled garden.

"These soils have a rich association with underlying geology, history and society.

"I feel that in this time of awareness of the fragility of our environment and way of life, it is perhaps a good time to refer back to the basics of life, to people and our natural resources."

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More pictures:

A photo of a series of sculptures of human heads in small brown boxes hanging on a gallery wall
© Peter Burke
A photo of a white sculpture of a human head balanced on tiny charcoal sticks in a frame
© Peter Burke
A photo of a series of small sculpted human feet in a semi-circle on a grey gallery floor
© Peter Burke
A photo of a woman looking at a series of circular and diamond-shaped sculptures inside a gallery
© Peter Burke
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