Ainsley Burrows (b. 1974 in Kingston, Jamaica; based in Baltimore, MD) is a multidisciplinary artist who explores untold stories and the often-unspoken aspects of emotional existence. Alongside his visual art practice, Burrows is also a poet, musician, and performer, using his experiences and talent from these areas to add depth to his series-based paintings. Raised in Kingston, Jamaica and Brooklyn, NY, Burrows paints with his upbringing in the foreground, referencing the many histories, migrations, and inherited wisdom that have shaped his perspective.
Working predominantly with acrylic on canvas, he leans into the tactility of the mediums he works with, using expressive gestures to apply paint and follow its natural flow. Ainsley utilizes several styles, ranging from expressionism to cubism to folk art, to scrutinize and reimagine the colonial legacy of European artists like Picasso and Modigliani, while paying homage to Black artists including Basquiat and Lawrence.
The Maroons: Rebellion, is the inspiration and title of his most prolific series to date. It explores the relationship between the Jamaican Maroons and imperialist British enslavers in the 17th and 18th centuries. With deep, passionate swathes of color, Burrows examines the reverberations of a living history that continues to affect him.
In 2020, Burrows turned his attention to current events and the surreal atmosphere brought on by the pandemic. As he painted the series Art For The Coming Age, and Marley Mixtape he developed new styles like Raktism and Meta Chaos, leaning further into abstract expression.
While the world was in isolation, Burrows developed the method he calls Raktism, through which he explores the fourth dimension. These paintings are characterized by bright colors and soft shadows that often include abstract figures whose movements and features are choppy, creating the perception that we’re seeing them at different moments in time from various perspectives. This visual effect is intended to bring the image and space together while also paradoxically splitting it apart, so the viewer can feel the intensity of observing time and the movement inherent in the image even though the painting is static.
The Immigration series, created in the later months of 2021 into 2022, is defined by a technique Burrows calls String Theory. This technique is characterized by wide sweeping motions that require full body movement. The large-scale paintings in this series feature curving lines and abstract figures that flow into one another to represent the complexity of immigration and often tumultuous path to freedom. Just as the scientific theory explores the fundamentals of what keeps the universe together; Burrows offers that immigrants are the smallest (unsung) particles that keep humanity together.
"Ainsley is an amazing human, the profundity of his expression of moments and characters in world history is breathtaking. He captures a reckoning of sorts; giving face, texture, and honor to the returned gaze of the overlooked."
— Lisane Basquiat