Born: Aug. 5, 1952 in Charlottetown PEI
Died: Dec. 19, 2017 in Murray Harbour PEI
Over the last several years, we have travelled to PEI annually. We have combined in these trips PEI sight-seeing and good eating; but always the main attraction was visiting Brian Burke and Judith Scherer his wife to see Brian’s new paintings. We usually put some paintings in the back of the car to bring back to Studio 21 for exhibition, sometimes along with our large dog. We have been with Brian and Judith to the studio in Charlottetown where hundreds of Brian’s extraordinary works from several decades are stored. In December 2017, we went to PEI again; but this time for the funeral mass to celebrate Brian’s life. The serious Catholic ceremony was interspersed with the joyous music of a jazz ensemble, made up of Brian’s friends and fellow musicians. Brian was a drummer. A striking realization from this visit and the previous one, is that Brian Burke had a group of lifelong friends who were of really extraordinary importance to him. So, when we look at his paintings, which seem to embody an awareness of the solitariness of human existence, as we each teeter on the edge of life and death, we also reflect on the necessity of friendship.
Brian was a friend as well as one of Canada’s most remarkable artists.
Terry Graff, Director and CEO of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and former Director and Chief Curator, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, writes, “I have long admired Brian’s figurative paintings, which are both beautiful and dark. Burke was a genius at capturing psychological states of being through minimal means. Using thin washes of smoky colour, he created stark vignettes of brooding isolation, estrangement, and loneliness. I always wondered where these images came from…But in addition to its resonating content, Brian’s work is just great painting.”