Jack Burton: Pro-Social Fries

25 June - 1 August 2020

Castor is pleased to present Pro-Social Fries, Jack Burton’s second solo exhibition with the gallery.  

Pro-Social Fries brings together a new body of work created over the past few months locked down in Brussels. Through sculpture, wallpaper, animation and wall-based works, Burton explores ideas of social identity and redistribution in his new adopted country.

We are taken to a place where one high street isn’t simply the facsimile of the next. Where independent spirit can flourish without the Command V, Command V insertion of instantly recognisable logos. Economic ideas mix with a hand made aesthetic of advertisements, announcing both goods on offer and hopes for a fairer society.

‘I have always liked signage, especially handmade signage’ says Burton. ‘It’s something I miss from the town I grew up in, Barry (South Wales) as I remember it before the arrival of the supermarkets which decimated the local economy of small independent shops. Since then, my idea of home-made signs has been somehow linked with a hope for a more distributive economy.’

Following his relocation to Brussels two years ago, Burton, to his delight, found himself surrounded by this kind of signage once more. ‘It abounds, offering improbable combinations of qualifiers and nouns. They are quirky, human things.’ They clearly haven’t been required to pass the gauntlet of the consumer panel testers, and are all the better for it.

Burton continues… ‘One of my favourite types of signs here are those for the frituurs or friteries in Flemish and French respectively. Chip stalls, serving Belgium’s most famous dish. The signs are idiosyncratic, sometimes simply naming the stall after the location, sometimes promising a state of being we might aspire to, even a moment of grace.’

With such a rich and unkempt visual language available at the door, it’s no surprise that one of Burton’s main preoccupations in the studio has been inserting idea she is thinking about into this everyday format of the shop sign, or local band poster.

Within the gallery space we’re confronted by Burton’s own backlit frituur/friterie sign, the creation of which kicked off a tailspin of thoughts about national identity, the roles cultural cliches play in the stories we tell ourselves, and what prospects there are for a redistribution of wealth in the context of a recession and, hopefully, a recovery.

These thoughts orbited Burton’s head, gaining speed and reach, until they became a conversation with another person, his Flemish neighbour, Patsy. These discussions, about the nature of her Belgian identity, and the prospect of socialism from the point of view of a potato plant, became the basis of the animation piece.

After what feels like a lifetime of globalisation and expanding corporate interests for both the artist and the gallerist, the events of 2020 so far have felt like a shuddering stop to the mantra of ‘business as usual’. Even cities the scale of London have felt more like a collection of small villages defined by what is a reasonable walking distance. Therefore it seems apt to take a moment to think about how a localised economy might express itself, with all its idiosyncrasies.