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ACE & TATE MEETS | Anthony Burrill

UK-based graphic designer Anthony Burrill created a series of statement prints for our SS17 pre-collection, encouraging us all to switch-off and live in the now! We had a one on one with Burrill about his work and printing technique – a slow and mindful process – which like the statements he has created for us, leans towards a pre-digital, offline state of mind.

Words by Isabel van Zeller
Images provided by Anthony Burrill

 

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Which topics will you be discussing during your talk?
I’ll be speaking about my approach to design and how it’s part of my life. I’ll describe my design education in a pre-digital art school and how that experience continues to influence my working methods and broader ideas about art and design. I will show examples of my work from twenty years ago and how it relates to the work I’m making today. I’ll talk about the good and bad sides of digital media, how it can be both inspiring and problematic. That might sound all sound very serious, hopefully there’ll be some laughs in there too.

Can you talk us through your print technique?
I’m best known for my work with letterpress, it’s a technique I love working with. Usually I start the process by thinking of an idea for a print, working on the text for a long time before finally coming to a phrase that I’m happy to work with. It’s difficult to come up with something new every time, I always try avoid clichés and well- worn phrases as much as possible. It’s like writing a song or a piece of poetry, there’s a tension in working with words. Once I’m happy with the words, I set to work on the layout of the print. The letterforms I use are made of wood and metal, so can’t be changed in size. I’ll try to keep the amount of text short, so that I can use large type, it has a strong visual impact. I spend time setting the type and proofing the poster before a final print run is made. Choosing the type, making a layout and picking a colour all take time. From beginning to end it takes me a couple of weeks to design and produce a letterpress poster. I think the time spent producing the work comes through in the final print – the letterpress technique has a warmth and character that is impossible to produce any other way.

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Do you run your own social media channels?
Yes, I love engaging directly with social media. I’m a communicator so I’m keen to use any form of media I can. I like the day to day nature of social media, it provides a constant running commentary of what I’m doing and where I am in the world. I concentrate on my working life through my channels, I don’t use it to share photos of what I’m eating for breakfast! I think the people who look at my photos are interested in how I work and my approach to making it.

Do you think it’s important for us to disconnect?
It’s vital to disconnect from social media occasionally and give yourself time to think clearly, and develop your own original ideas. The online world is an amazing resource but is distracting. Of course it’s important to know what’s going on and look at interesting and inspiring work made by other people, but it’s much healthier to look at the offline world for real inspiration. As creative people, we should be seeking out inspiration from real experiences, whether that’s spending time in nature or looking at art in a gallery. When an experience is mediated by a screen it is diminished, we react to things differently when we’re in the moment. We should strive to connect with where we are and who we are with, rather than be distracted by a shiny screen.

 

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Where do you usually find inspiration for your prints?
I find inspiration in everyday life, through conversations with friends and time spent reflecting on experiences I’ve had.

There are some wacky things on the internet. What’s the strangest thing you’ve come across on the World Wide Web?
The internet is a weird mirror of real life, where else can we dip in to such a bewildering world of twisted information? I think this short clip describe the internet quite well: https://youtu.be/f62Z8Ev9OXA – It’s utterly pointless, but hard to not watch!

How do you unwind?
I live in the countryside, so a lot of my time is spent outside. I like walking and cycling, both activities give me time away from the computer screen. It’s valuable time that feels nourishing and calming.

Shop the Ace & Tate + Anthony Burrill limited edition statement prints here.