Music is key to the working practice of artist Ed Burkes, which means that he will be donning a pair of headphones most of the time he is in his studio at Banks Mill, in Derby.
A notice on his door invites visitors to walk in and not waste time knocking as he won’t hear you. There’s another which warns you that you are quite likely to get paint on yourself as he is very uninhibited in his studio.
As I tentatively open the door to the third floor room he greets me with a welcoming grin, whips off the headphones and wipes down a stool for me to sit on.
Ed is the winner of the eighth Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award and moved here from Worcester to take up his residency in October, with the aim of creating a body of new work inspired by a Sense of Place.
Since graduating from Falmouth University in 2016, with a coveted First in Fine Art, Ed has had work selected for a number of exhibitions and won several awards, including the Wilhemina Barns-Graham Travel to Italy Award in 2016, so it will be extremely exciting to find out what legacy he will leave in Derbyshire.
Already the walls of his new studio are brimming with what I would describe as large, naive work, free from the usual rules of more traditional paintings. There are drips and dollops, smears and smudges and intriguingly scrawled captions that snake around the pictures.
The carefully considered messages act as a narrative and seem to be his attempt to articulate his thoughts.
Ed himself is by turns serious, thoughtful, frank and mischievous. He seems a little reserved and says very little (as my notebook will testify) but he clearly paints with confidence and immense vigour.
And he is keen to talk about the theme he is developing for this Derbyshire project.
“I have been fascinated by the tradition of well-dressing and am making it an exploration point. There are a lot of facets that I want to look into and I am hoping to develop those. At the same time I want to somehow reflect the city of Derby. It is unlike any other city I have known and I am finding it interesting to live here,” explained the 25-year-old.
“I don’t really plan my paintings. The work comes from drawings and sketchbooks, but my starting point is always vacant – sort of like a stage waiting to be filled.
“The images come somehow from my subconscious and the way I paint is influenced by the music I am listening to at the time. I sort of zone out and am not thinking about what I am doing.
“I find it difficult to tell people what my work is about in words because I am not trying to pin my work to a specific thought or sensation – it’s a patchwork blanket. What I do is definitely anchored around my attempts to articulate what I am feeling.”
Ed’s solo exhibition will be at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery later in the year and will be at the Mall Galleries in London in 2021. The artist will also be carrying out outreach work within Derbyshire during his residency.
The Foundation Derbyshire award is offered to an emerging artist and for the first time in 2019 it was offered to past exhibitors of FBA Futures (Federation of British Artists) in conjunction with Mall Galleries.
To find out more about the award to go vickersartaward.co.uk and to find out more about Ed’s work go to edburkes.com