Studio Sunday: Elijah Burgher

A photo of artist Elijah Burgher in his studio


American artist Elijah Burgher addresses themes of queer identity and sexuality through the lens of appropriated occult imagery. The artist’s works often take the form of small drawings and prints, but Burgher is also known for his larger-scale paintings made on drop-cloth material.


Burgher’s studio is dramatically lit – dark and shadowed -- in this photo. The painting behind the artist (one of the aforementioned drop-cloth pieces) truly embodies an otherworldly, occult significance in this lighting, becoming a seemingly powerful symbol behind the serious-looking artist.


The array of artist’s supplies on the table in front of Burgher and on the window sill remind me of studios like those or Sandro Chia or Bernard Buffet. These studio spaces evoke a similar dark, dramatic mood, and the crush of splattered paint, brushes and paint tubes only serves to enhance it.


I also like being able to see a lot of sketchbooks and pads of artist paper on the lower shelves of the table next to Burgher. The nature of the artist’s practice seems to indicate a lot of time spent sketching out forms and figures -- new symbols and sigils to paint. It would be fascinating to flip through the artist’s sketches and experiments.


In recent works, Burgher has created new sigils by reworking the letter forms of words and phrases -- often wishes. The resulting images suggest meanings but are never quite concrete, and the letters are skewed and remade thoroughly enough to detach them from their original use. These artworks are imbued with a very literal meaning that remains opaque to the viewer, allowing for both a defined meaning, and an interpreted one.

[image source]

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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