2 May 2024

Luke Burton: ‘Press Gang’

Luke Burton: ‘Press Gang’

Read the full article here.

Words by Eddy Frankel.

Which way, young traveller: will you choose a life of art, literature, music and creative fulfilment (and the likely associated poverty), or a life of corporate subjugation, being slowly suffocated by a suit and tie (and the likely associated financial rewards)?

It’s a question being asked by English artist Luke Burton in the slightly queasy, uneasy environs of an art gallery in a private school, where he’s been artist in residence for a year. Watching the kids of this school be encouraged to play, pushed to learn and grow while also being moulded for financial excellence has left Burton conflicted. His art asks: do we want a life of lanyards and conferences, or a life of paintings and poetry?

A giant painted lanyard dominates the room, a vast modern shackle tying you to your corporate life. Images of footballs and crossword grids are everywhere, jostling for space with portraits of stiff-collared civil servants. ‘Press’ it says along one wall, ‘release’ on another. There’s all this tension, this desire for play and freedom fighting with the lure of a career in the corporate machine. We want to kick balls, do puzzles, but we’re pushed towards lives in banking and insurance.

Burton sees it as almost unnatural, he sees creativity waiting to blossom in everyone, but being smothered by careerism. I think he underestimates just how powerful the pull of economic supremacy and financial excess is for the average person.

But either way, it’s a modern anxiety, a battle between desire and responsibility that’s articulated in the form of paintings. It’s an artist looking at their life and thinking fuck, what am I doing, should I keep making paintings and installations, or should I get a real job? It’s what we all have to decide between really, lanyards or poverty. Choose wisely.