“within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, interconnectedness, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals and self-organization.”
- chaos theory
Chaos Theory presents an apt description of the world that resides in Ainsley Burrows – within the apparent randomness of his creations, there is a compelling, interconnected story about a man driven to make sense of the world through art. Ainsley Burrows is a person compelled to create art on a constant basis. He is a multidisciplinary artist who uses various mediums to release the ever-flowing chaos in his being. His expression can be described as big, surreal, colorful and magnetic. When all is stripped to its essence, Ainsley Burrows seeks within his art to make the consumer feel more alive.
From his earliest paintings to his most recent fine art creations, Ainsley Burrows' long-standing career as an internationally acclaimed poet is reflected in his choices of subject matter and form. However, painting allows him to exist in a different realm of creativity all its own.
Ainsley Burrows was born and raised in Jamaica where he started sketching and drawing at a young age. While being immersed in an exciting poetry and performance career that would take him around the world dozens of times, Ainsley Burrows debuted his first fine art series called Art & Magic. Then came the Masking series, the Red Show in 2013, the NeoChaos series in 2016 and numerous paintings throughout. Through these collections, Ainsley Burrows trained in understanding the movement of paint; composition and use of color. He has experimented with various styles including portraiture, primitivism, cubism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism. These styles reappear in subsequent works.
The cornerstone of Ainsley Burrows’ work is the written word and study. In line with his belief in studying one’s craft, Ainsley Burrows put himself through a rigorous process via The Maroons series; a collection of 125 large format paintings. This series showcases multiple styles with some notably inspired by a desire to scrutinize and reengineer the work of European artists like Picasso, Matisse and Munch; and paying homage to Black artists like Jean Michel Basquiat, Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. Using the vehicle of a subject matter close to his heart, Ainsley Burrows reclaims the use of African masks and re-visits long hallowed paintings like Edvard Munch’s Scream – re-imagined as African Scream.
Currently, Ainsley Burrows spends most of his time painting and writing in his 1500 square foot studio. Long known for his passionate opinions about politics, race, sex and self-actualization, the coronavirus pandemic and racial upheaval of 2020 urged Ainsley Burrows to put these emotions on canvas. While showcasing vibrant colors and striking composition, Art For The Coming Age is simultaneously filled with angst and chaos. The characters appear to occupy a world that exists at odd angles. Overall, there is a simple yet complex beauty in these paintings.
Life began for Ainsley Burrows on the Caribbean island of Jamaica where he attended Kingston College (this is equivalent to high school in the US). As Ainsley Burrows puts it, “[he] received a vigorous formal and informal education in history and the social sciences.” Although he moved to Brooklyn, New York at the young age of 16, Ainsley Burrows would credit his homeland for shaping the political and social tenor of his writings.
In college in the US, Ainsley Burrows continued his academic excellence while participating in numerous extra-curricular activities. He juggled a busy schedule that included a star position on the school’s Division II varsity soccer team, being the lead vocalist of a popular campus band, Vertical 8, and organizing his peers to become student association senators. As the Black Student Union president, Ainsley Burrows invited controversial personalities to the campus, like Bobby Seal, Frances Cress Welsing, Sharon Pratt Kelly, Omar Wassow and Keith Clinkscales.
When he wasn’t trudging through the winter laden campus at SUNY – Oswego, Ainsley Burrows was studying his craft and building his chops at every, and any open mic he could find in New York City. Brooklyn in the 90s offered a vibrant and rich environment for a poet to excel. Ainsley Burrows surrounded himself with writers, painters, dancers, fashionistas, thinkers, artists and activists. Drawing inspiration from fiction writers like Ben Okri, Philip K Dick and Chuck Palahniuk, Ainsley Burrows wrote poems that take his readers on mind flights through history; along dreamscapes and metaphysical episodes; arriving at that inner city block we all have etched in our psyches. He immersed himself in literature ranging from the classics in philosophy and world history, to the works of authors like Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and Bob Kauffman.
A life altering experience occurred in 1998 when Ainsley Burrows and a few of his friends were involved in an almost fatal car accident. The car ran off the highway, rolled over repeatedly, hit a fence and landed in a tree. Miraculously, no one in the car was injured, but the emotional trauma and the gratitude for life affects Ainsley Burrows to this day. This marked an important turning point in Ainsley Burrows’ life; he left the MBA program he had begun only one semester before, to pursue his passion for art, poetry and writing full-time. Life was too short to waste another minute.
From that day on, Ainsley Burrows has been a literary force to be reckoned with. In 1999 he founded BurrowsINK, published his first book Black Angels with Sky-blue Feathers, and released his first album Cataclysm. By combining his literary skill, with a sharp business acumen, Ainsley Burrows was unstoppable. He purchased a bus ticket and began a “guerilla” tour, billed Babylon by Foot across the United States and Europe. From these humble beginnings Ainsley Burrows built a successful career that would take him from cafés and open mics to festivals and institutions across the US, Canada and Europe for the next ten years.
Among his many accolades, Ainsley Burrows fondly remembers that he was invited to feature at Cambridge University’s very first annual celebration of Black History Month. He performed his famed Negro Unplugged poem among others that day. Ainsley Burrows has graced the stages of Manhattan Center, the Dillon Thomas Center in Wales, the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Lancaster Literature Festival, the ABC Festival (celebrating the works of Bertolt Brecht) in Augsburg Germany and Princeton University. He has won numerous awards for poetry including Best International Performer of 2001 and 2002 from the Farrago Poetry Café in London; Munich’s International Poetry Slam Championship award in 2001; and awards from the world-famous Nuyorican Poet’s Café in 2001 and 2004 for participating in the national team and coaching the national team, respectively. Ainsley Burrows taught writing workshops for many years across England, Wales and Germany and even taught a workshop for actors at the prestigious Juilliard School. Leaving an impression everywhere he performed, Ainsley Burrows was offered and accepted a sponsorship by Echo Unlimited in 2001; he appeared on BET’s The Lyric Café in 2008 and on Verses & Flow (TV1) in 2013. In 2008 Guinness, known for award-winning campaigns, featured Ainsley Burrows on one of their commercials. He was the face of Guinness in the Caribbean for the next three years.
In 2010 Ainsley Burrows met his life partner Laurielle Noel and together they shifted Ainsley Burrows’ attention to producing a stage production called The Sweet Spot. They toured The Sweet Spot across 40+ cities in the US, each year, and year-round, right up until the pandemic caused a temporary closure in March 2020. The Sweet Spot gained national attention as the biggest Black burlesque show in the country, performing to audiences ranging from 200 to 1200 and on notable stages like Sony Hall (Broadway, NYC), Howard Theater (DC), Harlem Stage (NYC), Warehouse Live (Houston), The Underground @ Fillmore (Charlotte), House of Blues (New Orleans), to name a few. Ainsley Burrows and Laurielle both produced, performed, and toured with The Sweet Spot, yet Ainsley Burrows found time to create art outside of the stage production. During these years Ainsley Burrows continued to write and immerse himself in painting fine art.
Over the span of 20 years, Ainsley Burrows arranged and produced fifteen poetry albums (eight for himself) including Climax, Rockstar and Evolver. He wrote three novels including the published novels Bang Bang Bang and Sex Addiction. He wrote several screenplays including Black California. He published 10 books of poetry including The Woman Who Isn’t Was. These were later combined with other poems to publish an anthology of his poetry over 20 years; a 500-page collection called The Spellcaster’s Manual (cover photo by Barron Claiborne). Ainsley Burrows’ work has been anthologized in several books including Planet Slam, TwentyFourTwo, and Graphic Poetry. During this time, Ainsley Burrows also created hundreds of fine art paintings, including The Maroons Rebellion series of 125 large format paintings.
The next twenty years… see Chaos Theory.