For 20-year-old Jared Burton, art is much more than just decorative. It is an instrument of change and progression.
In a candid interview with Bajan Vibes, Burton described himself as driven, explorative and imaginative.
“Whatever subject matter I’m exploring, I like to approach it from the most unexpected angle I can think of rather than something cliche,” he stated.
“I tend to stay away from what might be expected of a Caribbean artist, like beach scenes or palm trees. My work instead has begun to focus on social issues.”
Burton made the decision to begin addressing social issues in his art back in 2015.
“I initially made a painting about taxes being implemented on the people of Barbados. The piece featured a skeleton in the foreground with Bajan colours in the background,” he explained.
“The whole idea behind it was that the skeleton represented death, as in the only way to escape all these taxes is death. It’s titled Try to Tax Me Now,” he added.
Burton has moved from current affairs to history. “Some of my more recent explorations have dealt with colonial imagery in contemporary Barbadian society,” he said.
The theme, he explained, came from mere observation. “It’s something I just began to notice as I made my way around the island; places like Queen’s Park or even the statue of Nelson in Heroes Square. All these things hold their roots in a time period which doesn’t reflect contemporary Barbados but yet they’re held with significance. Nelson is no hero of ours but yet he’s in Heroes Square,” he stated.
Burton, who is into the final year of his Bachelor’s in Studio Art degree, said he always had an interest in art. “From the time I was a child, even when it was just for my amusement, but I truly started to pursue it in 2013 when I started my associate degree in Fine Art but I really only devoted myself in 2015,” he said.
When the young artist was asked to name a tutor who has had a major impact on him, he wrestled with the question for a while. “Well, a couple tutors come to mind, but I think Mr Winston Kellman has really been a huge help in assisting me through some of my ideas,” Burton said.
“Many times I would have an idea for artwork and if, for whatever reason, I can’t translate that idea visually, I can always count on Mr Kellman to bring up some visual references to move the idea forward,” he added.
Besides the guidance of his tutors, Burton has always had the support and encouragement of his family, including for his decision to pursue art professionally.
“Very early on, I sold my first painting and it was hands down one of the proudest achievements of my career thus far because just the thought that someone would be so interested in my work to want to own it, was something I couldn’t imagine until it happened and it was really motivating,” he reminisced before describing the piece.
“It was called I’m Lovin’ It and it featured a green monkey eating a Big Mac and it was about the Americanization of Barbadian culture.”
A great influence is Burton’s favourite artist, Egon Schiele. “I think I have several favourite artists but one that has really stood out to me has been Egon Schiele. The way he approached the figure in his art was really unique and breathtaking.”
Looking ahead, Burton wants to expand and showcase his work in more places. “I’ve had my work shown at the Barbados Art Council, NIFCA and recently during CARIFESTA but when I think of five years down the line, I would like to have my work shown in galleries around the world and perhaps have my work in some collections.”