Scott Burdick makes impasto brushwork seem like that most obvious choice in the world. His facility with paint allows for some impressive displays of virtuosity. It is this, his bold direct manner, which first attracts one to his work. This technical strength is evident in his charcoal and even in rare watercolours too.
Burdick’s work consists largely of paintings of people, environments and landscapes from his travels around the world with is wife (Susan Lyon, also a painter) to countries such as India, Nepal, Tibet and Italy. It can be quite a delight to see somebody’s response to a certain country expressed in paint so eloquently. His travel journals on his website, illustrated by photographs as well as paintings and sketches, make for a good read.
There is, in art that depicts foreign lands always a tension between documenting in a fairly objective way what is to be seen, and the need to show an artistic voice that is more than mere transcriber of reality. This is particularly in the case of the work of 19th century orientalists such as Jean Leon Gerome. His almost photographic realism has the semblance of truth to it. His almost scientific attention to detail, often incidental and seemingly irrelevant, give the appearance of objective documentary painting. Yet his work is, in many ways, the product of preconceived ideas of the “Orient”, and Gerome gave apparent verisimilitude to already imagined conceptions of the Near East.
Now, where does this leave Burdick’s work? Certainly he seems to search for images that conform to the ideas we have of a country, and you will find in his paintings no tourist alongside locals for instance. From his travel journals, it appears he endeavours to go off the beaten track and find a more ‘authentic’ experience, which he responds to in a way that I find nicely balanced between that documentary approach and a delightfully artistic one.