Interview – Burg

I don’t even remember seeing my first Burg face – one second I had no idea who the fuck he was, the next it seemed like he had always been there. Suddenly, Burg was just a part of the landscape, his work morphed into the ever flowing world of Melbourne street art in such an intrinsic way that I was caught out. Surprised, even.

Sulking on corners, laneways and thoroughfares – staring out with impeded eyes and forlorn glances, a true face of the downtrodden – aged lines blurring into the heady youth of a young impressionistic attitude flowing with rough, barely concealed zeal. You know Burg when you see him – and trying to grasp onto the emotions on one of his works is an episode in frustration. Ambiguity is one of the most highly sought after expressions in any kind portraiture, that sudden "I don’t know what the fuck he’s thinking" in the viewers eye a most preferential outcome, and in this, Burg has excelled in this.

With a imminent move up to Byron Bay, we’re hoping that we don’t have to wait too long before we see more Burg faces pop up on the streets of Melbourne – in the meantime, read on and find out more about this grand up and coming artist hitting our streets …

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Can you tell us how you first started out as an artist and how you first become interested in art?

I first started as an artist, that’s a tough one. it still a weird thought to think of my self  as a artist, I guess it started when I saw one of my paste ups on "Melbourne street art" Facebook group as bad as that sounds, I always drew in my spare time but there was never really anybody who saw it until it was on a wall for everybody to see. I always loved my comics from a young age as well as the classic 90′s animations.

I always thought I was going to be a cartoonist but I never had the patience for it – I think my art now is constantly influenced by pop-cultures hatred of imperfection and mistakes.

I think that that’s what makes things interesting …

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When was the first time you picked up a spray can? What lead you to painting on walls?

I think the 1st time I picked up a spray can was at a mates house party, its been trial and error since then. He was the person who first took me out pasting, that night we met "Start From Zero" – a crew from Japan. I guess what lead me to paint on walls was the "street cred" nobody who does paste ups really gets the same amount of respect as aerosol art, also its a hugely challenging as well as expressive.

I don’t think that anyone has picked up a can and been amazing at it, from my experience it takes a long time and a lot of $$$ to get it to where you’re satisfied, and to look the way want people to see your art.

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Looking around you at all the art up on the walls around Melbourne, where do you feel that yourself and your art fit in to all of that? What have been some of the inspirations you have garnered from such a rich environment?

I kind of hope that my art doesn’t fit in with the others, i want my burg characters to stand out, but with the amount of diversity we have in Melbourne is one of the things that make it special. I’m inspired by the greats that have left their mark on Melbourne, like Phibs, Lister, Gent and Shida. On the other hand our local talent is endless – blokes like Conrad Bizjak, Hancock, JD, Eleven and the AWOL crew keep pushing the limits.

Its a curse and a blessing. It keeps you humble, no matter how good you think you are there is someone out there that is better.

What have been some of the more enjoyable aspects of working with spray paint, and what have been some of the more negative moments? Tell us about the trails and tribulations of working on walls …

Spray paint, its one of the more harder mediums i have used. I get less frustrated with oils. i think its one of those things that the more you work on it and the better you get at it your still not happy, thinking it could be better. i think that’s one of the real holds spray paint has on me, I can’t let it beat me! I have never been shown how to paint with a can, so every time I paint with it I learn something I didn’t know before.

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Where did your form of style spring from? Do you have any formal illustration background, and what kind of identities within art do you believe your work most identifies with?

Hahaha, my style – its a hard thing to critique your own work! Well, I see my style as still changing but every artist is trying to refine there craft. It started out as just drawing cartoons with pencil, once I started using a marker i realized how to use every side of the marker to create thin and thick lines, after that it was just having fun using the freedom to experiment and enjoy doing the outline, the amount of times I have sketched out a design and when it came time to go over it with a marker or fine liner it turned out completely different because of a thick line here and a thin line there.

When it comes to formal teaching, I recently finished my Diploma in illustration at Preston – it was a huge influence on my work over the past year – learning and trying things you wouldn’t think about with out the right guidance. Its saved me from being a one trick pony.

One of your characters, what I think of as "the wrinkled dude"  is immediately recognisable, and almost a Burg trademark – can you tell us a bit about the evolution of this character and where he came from? I mean, what exactly is a Burg anyways?

Burg faces actually started out as mistake – from frustration.

I remember trying to draw this character that I thought was cool but I couldn’t get it right. I had only a few hours before my mate came over and we went out pasting, and as I started to get a bit angry, I took my frustration out on a scrap piece of paper – after that, I felt better so I got back to my original drawing.

Those hours passed, and my mate rocked up ready to paste. I started to pack up the drawings i was going to take out and he asked why I wasn’t taking that one? I thought it was just a shit scribble, but he made me take it – and that’s how the first Burg was spawned. Since then, I’ve drawn him that much that it doesn’t look the same – but he still carries the feeling of a reject, with all his imperfections and ugliness.

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You just recently had an exhibition at The Vic – what lead you to wanting to put on the show?

I did – I met the guy who runs it about a year ago through a friend. He had been asking me to put some stuff up for a while, he asked me again about end of March. At that point I had decided to move up to Byron Bay and had started to save for that. I needed money, and the challenge of having a solo exhibition with a month to prepare was something that felt like it was worth it.

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Can you tell us a bit about how you felt once the exhibition opening itself was over? What was the feedback and reaction to the work – and what would you have changed about the experience, or alter for the next time?

Once the exhibition was over it felt great – before hand I was shitting my self. I polished off a bottle of wine before I had even rocked up (and then some).

I had a great response from everybody i talked to. It was one of the more surreal moments I have had – I understand now why people go through all that hair pulling and sleepless nights for that moment of feeling alone – I think I had a permanent smile on my face for about two weeks.

I know that next time, I’ll give my self some more time – have a few extra little things like business cards, stickers and some prints.

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What are your next plans, and what do you hope to do for the rest of the year, and the next? What projects are on the horizon that you want to get involved in?

The next 12 months are looking pretty exciting – I’m moving up to Byron bay for a little bit, got a little bit of illustration and film work up. 

I have started to paint for my next exhibition as well as a few other group shows in Byron bay as well as another down in Melbourne at the end of the year. at this point I’m looking pretty busy which is always a good thing. so keep an eye out for burg over the next few months.

Check out more of Burgs art at his website, as well as all the recent shots from his latest exhibition "The Many Faces Of Burg" at The Vic ….

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For the past ten years, Fletcher Andersen (Facter) has cut his teeth writing for a variety of street press and music magazines. Drawing on his years of writing experience, and as an artist himself, Facter founded Invurt with the aim of promoting artistic events, and the established and emerging Australasian urban, street, illustrative, underground and low brow artists that partake in them. Follow him on Instagram @facter, or go like his facebook page, and check out his website, Irikanji.

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