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Shoreham artist, Patrick Burke, remembered

Three Shoreham-based organisations – Skyway Gallery, Ropetackle Arts Centre and Wordfest – are joining forces to bring the work of a local artist to life with a talk, workshop and exhibition of his art and writing this October.

Born in the Upper Shoreham Road, in 1932, Patrick Burke is by no means a household name, yet during his lifetime (he died in 2010), he was celebrated in London, Rome and New York and enjoyed a successful career as an art teacher, in Brighton and beyond. He was awarded the Prix de Rome for his etchings in 1957, which led him to live there for two years and find his way as a painter.

Close friend and collector of Burke’s work, Andrew Polmear says: “His paintings are influenced by Magritte, Mondrian and Fernand Leger, among others. He was a wonderful colourist, the composition of each piece would be exquisitely judged, his technical skill was so great that he could evoke a pearl necklace or the tattoo on a girl’s neck with the lightest touch of a brush and I never stop tiring of finding deeper meanings in the work.”

So why has it taken so long for Patrick Burke to come to public attention? “His worth has been known since the 1960s and small collections of his works exist in New York, London and Brighton,” Polmear says. “Part of the trouble, I think, is that a few of us would buy from him straight off the easel, leaving few to go on sale. Patrick’s refusal to self-publicise didn’t help, and his blend of abstract and representational work hasn’t been fashionable in a world dominated by conceptual art.”

Skyway Gallery, based in the Shoreham Centre, are currently exhibiting around 50 of the artist’s paintings, as well his sketchbooks and early etchings, until 26th October. Thanks t Wordfest – Shoreham’s literary festival organisation – there will also be a selection of the artist’s written work, including a book of short stories, a play and poems.

“It is my hope that the retrospective exhibition will give visitors a real sense of Patrick Burke the artist,” says Angela Edwards, director of the Skyway Gallery. “It’s entitled One Lives in the Hope of Becoming a Memory – words that come from Patrick himself – and perhaps the exhibition will go some way to fulfilling this hope.”

Wordfest and the Skyway Gallery will present an evening of reviews and discussions of Burke’s life and work at Ropetackle on Monday October 15th at 7.30pm. Guest speakers include: Andrew Polmear, John Vernon Lord, acclaimed illustrator, author and lecturer, who was a friend and colleague of Burke, and Sally Newman, a former partner and long-term friend. The event will be introduced and chaired by art historian, Pauline Ford.