Jim Bourke is a Toronto based figurative painter. The wax-based medium of encaustic informs his art. The

works are bold which capture the slightest gestures and nuances of the hand. His paintings are a series of

in decisionsand revisions each acting as an independent process revealing the visible traces of its

construction. He has studied fine art at York University, graduated from the OCAD.  He studied computer

animation at Sheridan College. He is a Board member of the artists’ collective, The Propeller Gallery. He has

won awards in numerous juried exhibitions including OSA, TOAE, Mississauga Art Gallery, and the RCA. He

was in the reality TV show Star Portraits and a finalist in the Kingston Prize for Portraiture. His paintings can

be found in various private and corporate collections.



Bourke is a painter who values the aesthetic and emotional potential of a rich and varied material surface left as a

trace of the process of creation. A good painting is as much a depiction, as it is a history of the artist’s observations,

\decisions and judgments:  a  pentimenti of the process of creation. He uses the encaustic medium because its

working properties support transparency of process and amplify physical presence.


Bourke depicts simple acts occurring in brief measures of time; the flash of a match, the shake of a dog, the sifting

of sand, juice squeezed from fruit, the pour of paint, a glance, a snap, all perhaps key-frames of a cinematic

sequence.  A narrative is implied, but in an interweaving of allegory and irony, the story being told often refers back

to what painting is, how it is made, and what painting still symbolizes in contemporary culture. Hands lighting a

match, for example, may be read simultaneously as an analogue of the quick gestural mark, a comment on the hot

medium of encaustic itself, and an eye-rolling nod to the public myth of the artist bestowed with inspirational “light”

. Or his most recent series based on the collective nostalgia for the man in the business suit, (a fading symbol of

power) reified by the Netflix series Madmen built as a pastiche of media from the 1960s.


As much as he tries to activate the material-surface potential of his work, Bourke attempts to maximize the visual

energy within the figure-ground relationships and their positive/negative spatial relations. He is also keenly aware of

the limits of the support, the two-dimensional frame. He sometimes places an echo of the frame, (a smaller

rectangular canvas fragment) on to the surface by melting it into the wax base. It serves as a new blank field:

collage as erasure.


As much as he thinks of echoing the frame inside it itself, he sees a painting in relation to what is outside the frame.

Bourke looks at each painting as potentially part of series or sequence. The support’s edge is therefore not the

ending of the work, but a border between adjacent works. In series or in sequence, his  work is more informed by an

animator’s sensibility. The brief measure of time or space or in one work can lead to another or come from another.


Design, process, materiality, surface, structure, reflexivity, sequence, storyboarding history,

memory, authorship. All remain potent areas of investigation for the artist.