March 21, 2011
James Burke and Paul Arad
James Burke and Paul Arad are an inspiration to us all. With determination, dedication, creative talent and entrepreneurial flair, just two years after graduating the highly talented duo are having their artwork bought by the likes of George Michael and Prince Charles.
Facconable is privileged to have caught up with these innovative artists and talk about their inspirations, career highlights, recognition in the States and their celebrity and royal fan base. JB refers to James Burke, Creative Director, and PA is Paul Arad, Managing Director.
Acrylicize is obviously an extremely pioneering and creative use of acrylic. How did you get your inspiration for using the material in such a creative way?
JB: I wanted to bring the traditional art canvas into the 21st century and create art that could be admired at face value. The acrylic canvas wasn’t very widely used and I liked the modern, clean and minimal effect it had.
What are the advantages of using acrylic as opposed to traditional art canvases?
JB: The clean and simple lines of an acrylic piece give a fresh and modern feel to photography while the finish harmonises with ambient light to create luminosity, breathing life into the artwork.
From finishing your degrees at universities in Manchester, to winning the Best Product Award by the British Interior Design Association, and having your work bought by George Michael in just two years, how did you feel to the rapid rise to widespread recognition?
PA: The exposure has been great for the company, for instance, the big contracts with Arsenal and Wembley, plus big corporate names commissioning work from £200 to £250,000. But we don’t get complacent. Work doesn’t fall in your lap, you have to go and seek it. We continue to trawl the trade press and walk the streets of London, looking for new building developments to fill with art. One thing that stands out though, is that we’re doing well and we’re having an amazing time doing it.
From university campuses, to football stadiums, to designing a sculpture and a series of Spa products for the Atlantis Hotel Spa on the Palm in Dubai, your work covers a diverse field of projects, to say the least. What is your ‘proudest’ piece of artwork to date and why?
JB: Proudest would have to be the series we created for Wembley as it’s such a huge honour to be involved with the project and play a part in the national stadium’s history. We created unique photographic collections chronicling Wembley Stadium’s rich history, which are now exhibited throughout the impressive new stadium, some standing proud at over 30ft wide.
How did you get your inspiration for your recent installation, The Light Wall?
JB: The recent resurgence of light art and LED installations informed the creation of ‘The Light Wall’. We also took into consideration the amazing space that the building was located in: a really cool glass building on the corner of Great Portland Street and Mortimer Street, in Central London. Whatever we were going to create, it was going to be something that caught the eye of every passerby.
PA: We also wanted to visually demonstrate the energy and diversity of the Engine brand. We worked with Jump Studios, a London-based architecture and interior design practice, to create the finished piece.
It can sometimes be difficult for British artists to make a name for themselves in the United States. Have you managed to ‘conquer’ America yet in the artistic stakes?
JB: I have several pieces in the US including work bought by George Michael for his collection housed in the USA. We’ve also sold work to Anne Fudge the then-CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands, as well as having work at JFK airport commissioned by BA. Future plans include linking up with a US-based gallery to exhibit. We also hope to eventually open an office stateside, probably NYC.
Have the French shown any interest in your work yet?
JB: We’ve pitched for a few exciting companies, just waiting now!
You are obviously both media savvy entrepreneurs. How did you manage to start-up Acrylicize so quickly and successfully straight from university?
JB: It all started as my final year art project at Manchester Met, which involved ink designs sprayed onto acrylic. To make a statement about the public perception of art I put price tags — with random numbers — on everything. But then to my shock people kept trying to buy them and I sold almost all of it.
PA: We then spent the last £1,000 of our student loans on a stand at a design trade show to see if we could set up an art business. We carried our artwork on the tube and set up a stand with some posters. Luckily the art spoke for itself, selling out. A buyer from Selfridges was impressed and offered us an in-store concession.
What advice would you give to all aspiring, young artists wanting to make a name for themselves?
JB: Stay true to what you believe and work hard. I believe that it is these two attributes that can take you where ever you want to go. Too many people try to follow fashion or produce work that they think they should because it’s the style of the time. By doing this your work is likely to look like everyone else’s. Challenge the norm!