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What Lies Beneath: Smithfield by Stephen Burke


Smithfield by Stephen Burke.

Smithfield by Stephen Burke.

Smithfield by Stephen Burke.

Order in a large square of steel. It arrives coated with an oily slick that prevents it from rusting. Next, the big wipe down. Using a rag and white spirit, you dry every inch of that shiny, smooth surface. Then mask up and pull on those rubber gloves. This is best done outdoors. You'll need hydrogen peroxide, chlorine, vinegar and, using a spray bottle, get working. When that heady mix - his own concoction - hits the shiny stainless steel it sizzles and sizzling, for artist Stephen Burke, is "the sound of success".

"Leave it out in the rain if you want the rust to turn bright orange", and he's also discovered, while experimenting, that if you want to brighten up your life the kitchen sink turns pink if you use the right kind of chlorine. Do not try this at home.

For years, 26-year-old, Dublin-born Burke walked and cycled the early-morning, empty, quiet Sunday streets of the inner city in search of what he calls "an unintended collaboration between graffiti artists, Dublin City Council and myself."

The original graffiti is of little interest to Burke but he's grateful to the city council for its efforts at covering up the illegal, often ugly defacement of public space. Burke photographs the painted-over graffiti; then back in his studio he makes his own unique image on steel.

"Clanbrassil St Upper, North Side Inner City, especially neglected areas, socio-economically deprived parts of Dublin" are where Burke finds his inspiration and he says, "I wouldn't have any of the work now if it weren't for an erasing Dublin City Council."

A lane off Smithfield Square made possible this grey, light red and aesthetic image. Standing before his rusted and rusting steel and working from photographs of blocked out, anonymous, often disgruntled urban statement, Burke, using roller brush - "no brush hairs" - Dulux gloss and emulsion and layer upon layer of colour, makes his mark.

His earlier work had "a messier aesthetic; he's even worked with concrete but; in Smithfield, light and deep blues, yellow and red peep through, creating a quiet, calming effect. No messing.

New work by Stephen Burke can be seen at The Mart, 190a Rathmines Rd Lower, D06 R9F9 from August 15.

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