burn burns


“There’s just so much shit isn’t there? With art writing. So much bollocks. People who’ve swallowed dictionaries. All that crap.” Damien Hirst dismisses the practice of criticism in his introduction to these essays by Gordon Burn, although he may be thinking of his recent detractors rather than Vasari and Ruskin. Conversely, he acknowledges his friend Burn as “an artist in his own right . . . . [He wrote] almost like fucking carving it out of marble”. Others agree: Burn, who died last year, won a Whitbread Award for Alma Cogan, a novel based unapologetically on post-war cultural icons. Sex & Violence, Death & Silence collects Burn’s “encounters” with the Pop Artists who rose to stardom in the 1960s, and the Young British Artists of the 90s. “Encounters” is Faber’s cool coinage for occasional pieces. It seems to imply that all these writings were composed on cigarette paper as the author abandoned parties at dawn. Yet Burn is always erudite, and his prose has a beauty that many of the YBAs deliberately eschew in their work.

more from Nancy Campbell at the TLS here.