F5: James Burke on Meditation, Dutch Creativity + Drumming

02.10.23 | By
F5: James Burke on Meditation, Dutch Creativity + Drumming

James Burke is a busy man, an international artist and Chief Creative Officer of Acrylicize, the art and design studio he founded out of art school. It’s perhaps best described as being a “living, breathing sculpture” and a business. The studio, based in both London and New York, sits at the intersection of art, design, and brand. Acrylicize uses the power of art to express the essence of identity within the built environment. The studio designs pieces in-house, works with a global network of artists and designers, and counts firms such as Coca-Cola, Spotify, Netflix, and Wimbledon Tennis club among their client base. Acrylicize’s work can also be found in public spaces around the world as they fulfill the aim of bringing art outside of the gallery space.

For his personal work, James is represented by galleries in London, Miami, and Montreal, and also exhibits around the world. He’s married with three children, plays drums, and is a dedicated meditator.

This week, James Burke is joining us for Friday Five!

headshot of light-skinned man with dark facial hair, wearing a black baseball hat and a white t-shirt, and looking away from the camera

James Burke

a person viewed from behind sitting cross-legged meditating

Photo: Maddie Knight

1. Meditation

I started my meditation practice over two years ago, just before the pandemic, and it has had a profound effect on my work and life. I meditate for an hour a day (in 2 x 30-minute chunks). In addition to giving me more energy and mental space throughout the day, it also allows me to tap into my inherent instinct and intuition on a much deeper level, which has been invaluable as I navigate the craziness of the world. In our culture, I think we have a view that if we aren’t constantly striving to succeed at all times we are somehow failing. Meditation counters this by giving you permission to just ‘be.’ No pressure, no stress, nothing to do, nowhere to go, no winning or losing. It’s incredibly liberating.

a black cable in the shape of a smile

Happy Gravity by Helmut Smits \\\ Photo: Alexa Hoyer

2. Dutch Creativity

The Dutch have always been so good at blurring the boundaries between art and design. They have an incredible sensibility for craft, modernity, blending the contemporary with the historic, and connecting all via a playful thread that seems to be ingrained in their practice. Particular favorites of mine are Maarten Baas and Helmut Smits. You might know Maarten Baas from his timepiece, which hangs in Schipol Airport as part of his ‘Real Time’ series, which is part performance, part digital artwork, and part product design. Helmut Smits is an artist who makes numerous observations and provocations which poke fun at the rules and conventions of life through intelligent wit and masterful execution.

rolling green hills with trees and fields

Photo courtesy National Parks UK

3. The South Downs

Having recently moved from my birthplace of London down to East Sussex, I’ve been completely captivated by the South Downs – a 250-square-mile national park of rolling countryside near the south coast of England. To be connected with the outdoors in such a picturesque and dramatic way has been amazing for the whole family, especially the kids who love the space and the intrinsic sense of adventure that nature provides. I’m really looking forward to watching how the seasons affect the landscape, taking the dog for long walks, and getting some respite from the intensity of my London working life.

a drummer and a guitarist performing in a dimly lit space

Photo: Acrylicize

4. Drums

I owe my entire creative career to the drums. I learned to play when I was just six years old and was totally captivated by that first feeling of creative expression. I think I’ve been trying to chase that feeling of flow ever since. Any drummer will know that you can’t really switch off from hearing beats in your head, and this usually manifests itself by tapping into something around you. I move around the world, constantly exploring the sounds inanimate objects make. For instance, I was recently told by staff at Acrylicize that they always know when I’m coming up the stairs as the footsteps are usually accompanied by the tapping of hands on something as I approach.

garment label that reads VOTE THE ASSHOLES OUT

Photo courtesy Patagonia

5. Patagonia

From a cultural perspective, I have always been hugely inspired by the brand Patagonia. The essence of the company is based on a genuine passion for what they do mixed with a sense of social responsibility and tangible action. It’s a culture built around understanding what inspires you and leaning into that for the good of all. I think it leads to the idea of flow, which is a subject I find fascinating, and as a window into peak human experiences. As a business, they play by their own rules, put people first, and use their platform to make a difference in the world. The recent announcement to give away 98% of the profits to fight the climate crisis is yet another example of this.



Work by James Burke + Acrylicize:

a red mylar heart balloon encased in glass on a white pedestal

Everything and Nothing explores themes of joy, reflection, suspense, and fragility, specifically within the highs and lows of our relationship with social media. This interactive artwork questions the effects of our newfound addiction to the brief euphoria that we experience on a daily basis via online gratification. Guests can like a photo on Instagram and, in real-time, inflating the heart-shaped balloon slightly with each like until it bursts. \\\ Photo: Acrylicize

a tall, blue outdoor installation made of steel

In Anticipation is a public sculpture of a moment frozen in time, celebrating the infinite possibilities of our next thought, move, or action. The larger-than-life sculpture suggests that in our defining moments – moments that would see us immortalized on such a pedestal – we are more vulnerable than the traditional depictions may suggest. \\\ Photo: Acrylicize

outdoor installation featuring oversized illuminated lamps from different time periods

The Manchester Lamps consist of five playfully oversized domestic lamps that invite interaction and engagement within the city center. Each of the five installations marks a significant local historical innovation, with the corresponding time period echoed in each lamp’s distinctive design style: Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Victorian, mid-century and contemporary. \\\ Photo: Acrylicize

art installation of five illuminated stars in a line, a person interacts with them

The Constant Need for Approval explores validity and perceived worth in the age of the internet. The gold star has come to symbolize the marker for value in our society, no matter how deep or trivial the subject matter. As a purely functional and self-referential statement, the artwork relies on interaction in order to fulfill its destiny to be rated by each guest and showcase its own rating. This symbiotic relationship with the viewer defines the work’s representation, expression, and form, and in doing so questions wider public narratives of what defines art \\\ Photo: Acrylicize

a person rides a bike in front of a teal colored building that reads THE ART HOUSE

The Art House is Acrylicize’s newly redesigned studio HQ, which was designed in house by the studio. Using a creative and future-forward approach, Acrylicize developed The Art House to be the epitome of a Hyper Evolved Workplace, a term the team coined to paint the picture of true innovation in brand experience. The Art House showcases the future of the workplace through six key principles: purpose, empathy, community, creativity, sustainability, and equitability. \\\ Photo: Acrylicize

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.