There is a direct link between Ian Burch and William Gear; Gear was Head of Art, Birmingham College of Art when Ian Burch was a student from 1971-75. Further, Gear, recognising Burch as a promising and talented student, he made a purchase of a still-life from the young artist on behalf of Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery. This very painting has a topical presence now; it is hanging next to a Winifred Nicholson and in the same room as a Georges Braque in the exhibition Static: Still Life Reconsidered on show in the Waterhall, Birmingham Art Gallery until December 31st 2014.
That painting however, a representational work but with a very contemporary feel featuring an inventive use of proportion and handling of space, naturally dates from the mid-1970’s. Ian’s creative process has evolved unrecognisably since then, and over recent years has become virtually entirely concerned with abstract considerations. Burch’s approach shares a good deal with that of Rogér Walschots; neither artist is in the least bit concerned with representation or the description of things within their artwork.
Burch’s work is almost wholly concerned with surface. They take ages to evolve, but are worked with traditional use of oil paint, almost always on glued together blocks of 15 ply wood. There is a sense of journey in each piece, and they evolve through a “process of chance, concentrated working of the paint surface to give an intense sensory visual abstract moment in time”. The results can be transporting, many of his compositions featuring either delicious juxtapositions of colour or rubbed through matured surface or both.
The work is very personal but to those used to viewing abstract work projects a universal appeal. A very private person, up until now Ian Burch has rarely shown in the commercial sector. That said he has a considerable exhibition record within the municipal gallery world. Such appearances include a over fifteen one-man or two person shows from a solo exhibition as early as 1979 at the Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry. Inclusion in over thirty group exhibitions between 1973 and 2014, notably William Gear: Past and Present Friends, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 1996, give an indication of the consistent commitment of this artist to his craft.