Charles Burke – Biography

Charles Burke was raised in the presence and influence of David Milne, who lived “Just around the corner”, in Bancroft Ontario (Once voted the “Most talented town in Ontario”, due to the large number of artists and craftspeople per capita).

Unable to choose both music and art in high-school, he made the decision to study music and would later receive a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto. Even as a high school teacher, he was still interested in a comprehensive arts approach and guided students through lessons relating music and art. His grade 13 students were able to draw relationships in style between an artist and a musician based on stylistic principles.

After putting the comprehensive arts programme in place, Charles decided to obtain a Masters degree in Performance from the University of Western Ontario. Here he met and was invited by world re-known clarinetist Yona Ettlinger, to study at Guild Hall in England. Living in Thunder Bay at the time, the untimely passing of Mr. Ettlinger ended this adventure and at this time he decided to shift his focus to visual art where he was encouraged by Joanne Silverman, fellow artist and an eager advocate of the Art Bank, to become more serious about his art. Much time was spent in the spectacular landscape around Thunder Bay. Happiest when he was physically out in nature, he was, (and still is) empowered by nature while in his studio doing semi-abstract work. There have been many powerful, inspirational moments in his career including meeting Frank Carmichael’s daughter, by chance, one early morning on Cranberry Lake, where she directed him to the very rock Carmichael sat upon to sketch the famous, “Grace Lake” piece. To sketch from this exact place was very powerful indeed.

All the while Charles had continued studying music with clarinetist Aurahm Galper from the Toronto Symphony orchestra. As traveling expenses from Thunder Bay to Toronto began to climb, Charles made a move to Eastern Ontario, becoming involved in art shows in Cobourg, Lindsay and Cloyne and joining art clubs in Oshawa and Ajax. After winning the Mayor’s Award at the Lindsay Art Gallery competition, he was introduced to Pauline Bradshaw, an instructor in Traditional Realist art. Pauline was also a past graduate student of John Angel, who founded the School of Realist Art in the Junction in Toronto.

Charles studied classical drawing for the next five years until health issues forced him to move to Toronto after having open heart surgery. He continued to do shows in the GTA, and became a member of the Don Valley Art Club, the Artist’s Network of Riverdale, Ajax Creative Arts and became co-convenor for the Fine Arts Department at Sunnybrook Hospital. To this point his work had been influenced by the Group of Seven, but after several trips to study in Italy, he added the influence of baroque painters, Michelangelo and Caravaggio.

ln Oshawa, he did a presentation to The Oshawa Art Association on colour theory based on Quantum physics, relating harmonically, art colour and musical sound. This principle is a common thread making his work cohesive whether it’s a semi-abstract nature scene or pure abstraction with realist overtones. His study of music was essential in the development of this theory and contributed to his artistic development. He has looked mainly to the harmonic principles of musician J.S. Bach in an effort to combine the vibrant colours used by of the Group of Seven artists with the craftsmanship of traditional painting to mediate the two disciplines. The resultant “Harmonic Theory of Colour and Sound” is something he hopes to publish and to use to develop a methodology to teach children who experience perceptual difnculties. These two completed endeavours would be his legacy in return for the gifts of encouragement bestowed upon him over the years.

Recently his work has been accepted in Cornerstone Canadian Art & Craft in Kingston and the Norman Felix Gallery in Toronto. Charles continues to live and work in the Greater Toronto Area.