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Indepth Arts News:

"LIFE-FILE: THE PRIVATE FILE-FOLDERS OF WILLIAM S BURROUGHS"
2008-12-15 until 2009-01-17
Riflemaker
London, , UK United Kingdom

The private file-folders of William S Burroughs (1914 – 1997), visionary author of Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine and primary member of the Beat Generation, go on display in the UK for the first time at Riflemaker from 16 December. When Burroughs, famed as a novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word performer, noted down ideas for future use he would invariably file them in US standard manila file-folders. Burroughs would adorn each folder inside and out with abstract marks using ink and gouache, often accompanied by a line or two of text.

The exhibition at Riflemaker features fifty such works each representing and combining Burroughs various areas of creative activity - literature, visual mark-making and performance. The works are abstract often using just one or two colours used and featuring animals, words and faces emerging from gestural brushstrokes. He quoted Paul Klee saying that the way in which a picture is created may be more interesting than the picture itself.

Burroughs began painting the file folders ‘by accident’ during the 1980s, a period in which he spent much of his time painting. The folders, in which he stored his writings and organised his papers, were always to hand in his studio, so initially he used them as palettes to mix and test colours. He then began to see them as artworks and to create file-folder paintings intentionally.

Burroughs’ long-standing friendship with the artist, Brion Gysin, whom he collaborated with on the development of his famous ‘cut-up’ technique, applying familiar ideas of montage and collage from the world of painting to literary creation, led Burroughs to begin experimenting visually incorporating calligraphic elements to drawings and scrapbooks. However, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that he began making visual art that were intended to stand on its own right, apart from his writing, these include his ‘shotgun paintings’ and collaborations with artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Philip Raaffe and Keith Haring.


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