Kent Artist Profile: Brenda Burgess
There is a quote on Kent artist Brenda Burgess’s website that states: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” The words of Picasso, and if anyone knew a thing or two about art, it was him. This quote is an interesting one, and one that seems to sum up Brenda’s artistic ethos well – she uses her art to create thoughts and emotions in people that allow them to step back from their own daily lives and wash away the dust that they find there. insideKENT spoke to Brenda about her artwork and how it inspires people.
If you had to define your art, how would you describe what you do?
I both paint and sculpt, and find each as interesting as the other. My oil paintings use a light, limited pallet with the intention of producing a calming effect. My sculptures are all made of clay and range from dancing seahorses using dripping, multi-tonal glazes, to portrait sculpture commissions.
How did you become an artist?
I have always been interested in art and after having my first son 29 years ago I went to Canterbury Christ Church University to study art with a sculpture specialism. When I graduated I became sculptor-in-residence at The Museum of Kent Life and this was followed by six years in a similar role at Leeds Castle.
What is the most unusual, daring, or interesting commission you’ve ever received?
There have been many really unusual and surprising moments both in my artwork and my workshops, from being asked to sculpt a portrait for parents who had lost a child to being asked to provide a bride’s surprise ‘hen sculpture day’ at Walmer Castle in The Queen Mother’s sunroom. No two days are ever alike and that is a great joy to me.
You offer a variety of workshops for different ages – what makes clay the ideal medium to use?
Clay is a wonderfully forgiving material. If you make a mistake, you can usually put it right. I love introducing people to clay sculpture just as much as making my own work. You may find me working with schools or groups of children, being at a heritage site for both adult groups or children’s events and also for unusual charity fundraisers and team-building days; there is only so much paintballing you can take! Everyone I work with loves working with clay and what it can do.
What has been your proudest artistic achievement to date?
This is a difficult one! I have exhibited both at The Mall Galleries and The Royal Academy with portrait sculptures, but I also feel just as proud when I see a student grow in both ability and confidence. I recently spent three years working, one day a week, as artist-in-residence at a local school and watching the students bloom was just wonderful.
What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for you?
I am working with English Heritage and Godinton House doing both adult sculpture days and children’s workshops. I will be working in London at The Ned hotel introducing their members to sculpture, and I will be making more of my own work including portraits, dancing seahorses and pear-shaped bottoms!