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Prayer Flag Works Exhibition: Ubud, Bali

American-born Gregory Burns, an artist-in-residence at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, is currently creating a series of artwork inspired by the natural beauty of the Sayan Ridge and Ayung River Gorge.

The artwork will be displayed at the resort in an exhibition titled Prayer Flag Works, which will open on Sept. 5 for a period of four weeks as the article in the Jakarta Post explains.

Burns’ paintings will be complemented by a series of impressive photographs taken by his partner, Angie Tan.

During his residence at the resort, the artist is offering private art lessons, in which guests can embark on a personal painting journey through the Awakening of Art program.

In the program, Burns will teach and guide artists, aspiring artists and absolute beginners on how to capture the surrounding beauty on paper or canvas to create a memento of Bali.

Burns’ work borders the abstract and representational.

He started painting at the age of 6 and has spent most of his life traveling, swimming and creating the colorful artwork that has documented his voyages through primitive and vibrant cultures, oceans, mountains and sacred sanctuaries.

The artist is also an accomplished athlete and holder of five world records in swimming.

After graduating from college, Gregory backpacked overland for 16 months through China, Tibet, Nepal, India and Pakistan, where he recorded landscapes, architecture, monasteries, churches and temples.

In Taipei, Taiwan, he studied Chinese painting and calligraphy. Burns later sailed from Tahiti to Hong Kong on a year-long voyage producing television documentaries while also painting scenes from above and below the surface of the sea.

Since 1995, he has made his home in Singapore, also maintaining a base in San Francisco.

Working with acrylic, oil sticks and gel — which he describes as his “secret weapon” — Burns builds up his colors in layers, supplementing his strong, bold, calligraphic-inspired brushstrokes with collage elements such as maps, ticket stubs, photographs taken by Tan, and “other fodder that I find lying around”.

His work is rarely figurative, instead he is inspired by nature, water and architecture. His abstract style presents concentrated backgrounds that are deep and glossy, the intense hues and simple embellishments forming a rhythmic balance between density, texture, darkness and light.

A self-professed colorist, Burns doesn’t envisage a painting before he begins.

“It’s not about the destination,” he says. Instead, he compares the process to “a journey during which we will discover things that we could never have planned”. He continues,

“The only reason I know that a painting is done is because it feels right. If we plan, then we know what we will get, if we don’t plan then we might get magic. I like to leave the door open for the magic.”

Burns contracted polio when he was just a year old. He walks with braces and crutches, yet maintained: “I’m lucky; I’ve been disabled all my life so I have never known anything different.”

In addition to being a renowned artist and athlete, he is also an author.