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Ian Burns Manipulates Shadows And Light Into Ghostly Graffiti

Every kid seems to be fascinated by shadow puppets. When the electricity gets cut out and there’s nothing but your hands and a flashlight to entertain you, the person who can create the most intricate shadow (the ubiquitous bunny rabbit does not count) is king. By that standard, Australian artist Ian Burns is emperor. In his sculptures, Burns plays with light and reflection to spell out words and project images.

Burns’ works are concerned not only with the images themselves, but also make a playful show of how the images have been rendered. Inspired by the neon signs of Las Vegas’ famous strip, Burns created the sculpture series What Might Be, and his follow-up sculpture “In Increments.” To spell out words using glare and reflections, Burns created wooden frames and loaded them up with meticulously angled magnifying glasses and light bulbs. After hooking up the lights to a simple timing system, the lights spell out words on the wall. At the flick of a switch, the word “thou” can morph into “anon.”

His sculpture Clouds for the Melbourne Art Fair uses commonplace objects like ladders and salad bowls to generate images on a television screen mounted in the sculpture’s front. In “Gesture,” Burns linked up a similar timing system to lights behind panels that projected a series of stills of a hand opening and closing. Burns’ work was inspired by the philosophy of Henri Bergson who favored intuition over rationalism, and Burns artistic intuition has led him to a forthcoming solo show at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

What Might Be, 2011.

What Might Be, 2011.

In Increments, 2011.

In Increments, 2011.

In Increments, 2011.

Progression, 2011.

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