I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I'm comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.
— Claude McKay
MULTIDISCIPLINARY / CONTEMPORARY ARTIST
Jamaican-American painter, poet and writer, Ainsley Burrows, weaves untold histories on canvas, through poetry and performance art. The works speak for ancestors past and present, enlivening the soul, and awakening a shared tapestry recognized by a universal experience. Over the last ten years Ainsley Burrows has completed hundreds of paintings and six series beginning with the groundbreaking Maroons Rebellion, a collection of 125 large format paintings reflecting on the island's almost insurmountable journey from slavery to freedom, up into his 2020 series, Art For The Coming Age, a painters reflection on the current Corona Virus and the fight for black lives. Ainsley Burrows is one of the most prolific artists of our time, a multidisciplinary, award-winning artist who has toured the world sharing poetry, performance and visual…. XXXXX
THE MAROONS REBELLION
The Maroons Rebellion series is a collection of 125 large format paintings.
Artist statement about The Maroons Rebellion Series (2019)
It is an honor to present this series because everything that I have experienced in my life has led me to this point, and I honor that. A decisive part of my personal belief system is about rebellion; being an individual, your own person… about not being a slave to anything. I was born in Jamaica and received a vigorous formal and informal education in history and the social sciences. The Maroons of Jamaica at their core are rebellious, freedom fighting people; so telling our story was important and inescapable.
The Maroons are the first group of African people in the western hemisphere to have taken full autonomy from European powers. This series is a depiction of the historical context that led to their rise; and the hindsight perspective that reveals a direct relationship to African spirituality, African art, modern day dissent and even their connection to modern popular culture.
In this series I am dealing with a very intense and chaotic history, full of emotion, pain, resistance and rebellion. In addition to the brush, I use a palette knife to apply the paint, as well as pastels and paint sticks to capture and convey this story. The knife gives me less control, but it is more expressive and allows me to be closer to the canvas - giving the observer closer contact with my emotional state. The use of text in my paintings came intuitively, as I am a poet by trade. With paint sticks I’m literally writing a word – and that word becomes a thousand images.
This technique, that I call Neo-Chaos, is like putting the physicality of what I think and feel about the subject onto the canvas. I am taking the turbulence of what I perceive mentally and presenting it on the canvas in such a way that the interaction with the work is visceral – like digging a hole into the canvas so someone can see what’s in the hole.
— Ainsley Burrows
*A SERIES OF 125 PAINTINGS | 50 SHOWN HERE
“The way Ainsley uses paint is brave and matches his subject matter. Ainsley’s technique requires that he uses his whole body when creating work, so his strokes are grand and full of fevered movement. His use of color is bold and unapologetic, and the placement of the color and his color choices are intuitive; it’s almost like the work is telling him exactly what it needs. This series is yelling to the viewer to pay attention, to see more.”
— Naudline Pierre, Artist
ART FOR THE COMING AGE
Art For The Coming Age is a collection of 25 paintings produced during the coronavirus pandemic and racial upheaval of 2020. While showcasing vibrant colors and striking composition, the paintings are simultaneously filled with angst and chaos; they feel off kilter. The characters appear to occupy a world that exists at odd angles. Overall there is a simple yet complex beauty in these paintings. They tell the story of an artist exploring, finding his way through the chaos while creating meaning and context through art.
COMING SPRING/FALL 2021
African Scream, from The Maroons Rebellion series has been acquired by award winning author, actor and philanthropist, Hill Harper to be included in the grand opening of a new, yet unnamed, museum; scheduled for a Spring 2021 opening in Detroit, Michigan. The opening may be moved to fall 2021 due to delays caused by the pandemic. Ainsley Burrows is honored to be included among established artists like Kehinde Wiley, XXXX (ASK ABOUT OTHER NOTABLES WHO WILL BE INCLUDED)
THE NEOCHAOS EXHIBIT, 2016 | 33 Lafayette, Brooklyn NY
A series of ten abstract paintings (five shown here).
PERFORMANCE ART ~ POETRY
In 1999 Ainsley Burrows published his first poetry book Black Angels with Sky-blue Feathers, and released his first poetry album Cataclysm under his newly founded publishing imprint, BurrowsINK. By combining his literary and artistic skills, Ainsley Burrows began a “guerilla” tour, billed Babylon by Foot across the United States and Europe. From these humble beginnings Ainsley Burrows built a movement that would take him from cafés and open mics to festivals and institutions across the US, Canada and Europe for the next ten years.
Ainsley Burrows has graced the stages of Manhattan Center, Cambridge University, 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.
Ainsley Burrows' commercial success includes 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 in one of their commercials, after which he became the face of Guinness in the Caribbean for the next three years.
PERFORMANCE ART ~ THE SWEET SPOT
In 2010 Ainsley and his life partner Laurielle Noel produced a stage production called The Sweet Spot along with a cast of ten people. Over the following decade they toured The Sweet Spot across 40+ cities, performing approximately 85 shows per year up until the pandemic forced a 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 1600 and on notable stages like Sony Hall (Broadway, NYC), Howard Theater (DC), Harlem Stage (NYC), Warehouse Live (Houston), The Underground @ Fillmore (Charlotte), and the House of Blues (New Orleans).
WRITING & PUBLICATIONS
Over a span of 20 years, Ainsley Burrows has produced the following writings and publications:
~ Fifteen poetry albums including Climax, Rockstar and Evolver. Note: fully arranged and produced by Ainsley Burrows.
~ Three novels including the published novels Bang Bang Bang and Sex Addiction.
~ Ten 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 photographer Barron Claiborne).
~ Ainsley Burrows’ work has been anthologized in several books including Planet Slam, Fourteen Two, and Graphic Poetry.
“Burrows is what James Baldwin paved the way for. He is moving, romantic and unapologetically black. Each page invites you to fall more deeply in love with language.”
— Natalie Patterson, Poet
Chaos Theory states that “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 presents an apt description of the world that resides in Ainsley Burrows – a multidisciplinary artist using various mediums: painting, writing, and music; 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 a space that inspires an interconnected and life affirming ecosystem.
From his earliest paintings to his most recent fine creations, Ainsley Burrow’s long-standing career as an internationally acclaimed poet is reflected in his choices of subject matter and form.
Ainsley Burrows was born and raised in Jamaica where he started sketching and drawing at a young age; at 13 years-old drawing custom designs on jeans to sell to friends and family. His attraction to visual art never waned, but as Ainsley Burrows tells the story, he decided to pursue writing in high school because painting was, “way too expensive when I just needed a paper and pen to write.” After years of full immersion in poetry, and an exciting performance career that would take him around the world dozens of times [caveat: during his travels, Ainsley Burrows did not miss an opportunity to visit museums and galleries, which he consumed voraciously], Ainsley Burrows attended a small open mic event where a local NYC artist’s painting was featured. Viewing that artwork reignited something in him and that night Ainsley Burrows went to a paint supply store and invested in a lost, but not forgotten love.
In 2009 Ainsley Burrows completed his first full series of paintings. By 2011 he’d finished his first official series called Art & Magic; then came the Masking series in 2012, the Red Show in 2013, the NeoChaos series in 2016; and multiple random paintings throughout. Between 2009 and 2016 Ainsley Burrows experimented with portraiture, primitivism, cubism, surrealism, and abstract expressionism which are reflected in subsequent works.
Using the vehicle of a subject matter close to his heart, Ainsley Burrows reclaims the use of African masks and re-imagines long hallowed paintings like Edvard Munch’s Scream – re-imagined as African Scream, a segment of the series Maroons Rebellion, which will be featured in the upcoming Detroit Museum collection.
Today, Ainsley Burrows spends most of his time painting in his 1500 square foot studio in Baltimore, Maryland. Long known for his passionate opinions about politics, race, sex and self-actualization, the coronavirus pandemic and racial upheaval of 2020 urged Ainsley Burrows towards 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.