Cubitts in Conversation: Anthony Burrill
Renowned for his upbeat, typographic prints and a penchant for bright colours, a collaboration with artist and print-maker Anthony Burrill feels like a suitably sunny way to end what has been quite the gloomy year. Here, we speak to the designer, who has donated his work for the eleventh of our charity cleaning cloths, about the influences behind his signature style, his advice for young creatives, and how his oeuvre has been built on a career in eavesdropping.
What does the piece you’ve created for our collaboration, ‘LOOK FOR ANSWERS’, mean?
It’s a reminder to question the way things are and to figure out how to change what is wrong.
Your recent work has featured some especially bold and possibly even confrontational statements. What themes were you exploring when creating these pieces?
I respond to the times we’re living in through my work. When I make a new piece it has to say something about where we are and what we’re experiencing. My aim is to connect with as many people as possible through my work. The messages are intended to be positive provocations to challenge and encourage conversations.
You chose The Black Curriculum to receive the proceeds of our collaboration. Can you tell us about their work and why it’s important to you?
Society needs to change and the most effective way of creating change is through education.
How do your signature phrases come to you?
They appear in my thoughts and roll around in my head until they feel right. I don’t have a specific way of making them happen. They pop up when I least expect it. During a walk or sitting on a train. I don’t write them down, I try and remember the good ones.
Have you become a professional eavesdropper?
Sometimes. Be careful what you say when I’m around.
Your style is very direct and impactful. Who and/or what do you think has influenced that over the years?
Everything I’ve done, everyone I’ve met and everywhere I’ve been. My work comes out of my experience of being me and how I navigate life. The people around me inspire ideas that turn into my work.
At Cubitts we’re big fans of adding a little tongue in cheek humour to our communications, or a ‘filthy cackle’ as we call it, and we know you are too. Do you think humour plays an important part in your work?
Definitely. Life is funny and ridiculous. I think we all see the world in different ways, it’s those differences that make us who we are. Noticing those differences and recognising the similarities in people is how we all get along. Our interactions with the people around us say so much about who we really are.
Your early years involved a lot of DIY, self-publishing, and putting yourself out there. What advice would you give to young creatives who want to follow in your footsteps today (and not go into cyber)?
Make the work you believe in. The stuff that connects deeply within you and feels like it means something to you. Be honest in your work and talk about what you feel needs to be talked about.
Every house in East London seems to have your art on their walls. Who’s art do you have on your walls?
We have an eclectic collection of prints and posters from the 1970s, works by Eduardo Paolozzi, Graham Sutherland, Frank Stella and Peter Phillips cover our walls. It’s inspiring to live with amazing artwork every day.
We’re also very excited to be stocking your book, ‘Work Hard & Be Nice to People’. Why did you choose that particular print to lead your book? Is it a mantra you live by?
It’s my most recognised work and something I feel is always relevant and worth repeating. The book is a distillation of my ideas set out as a series of bold text works. It’s intended to be dipped into to suggest creative strategies to aid every day problem solving.
The book has been described as a ‘manual for those needing a little inspired encouragement’, and it feels like we’re all that person this year. What sage words would you offer to your fellow humans as we prepare for the prospect of lockdown 2.0, an isolated Christmas, and a socially-distanced New Year?
Everything is changing and we have to adapt to those changes. I’m hopeful we’ll all come through this time having learned a lot about who we are and where we’re going. Keep feeling positive and look for answers!
Anthony Burrill wears a Bespoke Judd frame in Bruarfoss.