In Madeleine Burt’s 2011 series Archive, she referenced two local collections: the Moth Archive at Wollaton Hall and the Lace Archive at Nottingham Trent University, (where she is currently an artist-in-residence). The work explored themes connected with preservation and loss, and the dissolution of personal and collective memory.

In Archive 2012, Madeleine Burt’s latest work explores how we store, access and share information in a technologically-advanced, postmodern society. Our extensive use of technology and media to document, experience and re-invent the world, at times leads to an inability to differentiate between the ‘real’ and ‘unreal’: hyperreality.

Advances in technology now allow us to access information from galleries and museums word-wide, enabling us to gain knowledge in a very ordered, clinical, remote manner, without the need to engage with artefacts firsthand.

Having undertaken further firsthand research in the archives, Burt presents us with snippets, distortions, partial views and limited information about the pieces she observed. She controls and manipulates our engagement with these artefacts and fuses disparate elements to create something altered. The ‘real’ result simulates the enjoyable, yet potentially inaccurate, or confused, state of hyperreal cyber-engagement.

Visual imagery in the work includes references to moths; distorted responses to markings on moth wings; details of lace designs; the linearity of the graph paper used to make lace designs; and the square format used for many lace handkerchiefs and table dressings. In addition to this, there is the repeated motif of a QR code that links to the artist’s website. Burt uses and misuses the code, by inverting it, reversing it, rendering it incomplete and, thereby, functionless. The purpose and meaning of the code is consequently lost, giving way instead to its visual form and visual function. The composite shapes are so suggestive of the QR function, that there is the ironic subconscious desire for the viewer to use them to access further information about the pieces digitally and remotely.




In recent years, Madeleine Burt's work has explored themes related to separation and loss, and to preservation. In her latest series of work, she continues to comment on these areas by looking at examples of traditional lace production, the industry that Nottingham was founded on, and at moth specimens, an insect associated with the destruction of fabric.

Governmental cuts are affecting our ability to preserve and showcase our arts and heritage. In recent years, the Costume and Textile Museum in Nottingham and the Nottingham Lace Museum have closed; Wollaton Hall's Industrial Museum opening times have been restricted; and the Yard Gallery there, which was once a well-curated, vibrant and contemporary space, is only open for shows that the artists themselves can vigilate, as the Hall is no longer in a position to provide funding. These changes are symptomatic of changes nationwide: a slow and steady demise of our social and cultural identity; and an apathetic, disillusioned public.

By referencing samples of locally produced lace from Nottingham Trent University’s Lace Archive and The Cluny Factory in Ilkeston, and by referencing moth specimens from Wollaton Hall’s Natural History Museum Archive, Madeleine’s work brings together artefacts that, so far, have been successfully selected and preserved for generations. Her work prompts some fundamental questions: if only some things can be preserved for the future, then what should we select? If, we have to discard certain parts of history, then what is dispensable?

It is Madeleine Burt's interest in what endures in life; what changes or is changed; and what is lost along the way, which continues to fuel her work.

The work references sequences of holes from the punch cards of the C19th Jacquard looms. These mechanical looms, invented in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard, were controlled by punch cards. Each row of a card corresponded to a row of lace design and the series of cards could be changed without altering the mechanics of the loom.

The Jacquard card system directly influenced Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine, a general purpose programmable computer and the first of its kind. There is a poignant irony in the connection between the two, as computer lace production has superseded the mechanical production of lace, effectively making it obsolete.

The Cluny factory in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, is now the only factory in the UK that produces lace using traditional C19th methods.

Lace designs were originally drawn onto gridded paper before being made. The Lace Archive at Nottingham Trent University houses thousands of examples of paper designs and the subsequent pieces of made lace.

In her works on paper, Madeleine uses graph paper to reference the original paper designs, and the controlled, linear elements of these drawings mimics both the vertical lines of the original design paper, and the suspended threads seen on the lace machines whilst in production.

Brought To Light

Madeleine’s work explores various themes: what endures in life; what changes or is changed; and what is lost along the way. These things include relationships, attitudes and objects. She is interested by the importance of association that we place on some objects, granting them status above their function, or giving purpose to things that are otherwise functionless.

This painting series is based on four baby bird skeletons which were uncovered from behind a boarded-up chimney breast. The poignant beauty of the skeletons had a power that seemed greater and of more subsequence, somehow, than if the infant birds had lived. They serve as a reminder of unfulfilled potential; of the peculiar beauty found in things perished; and of the sadness and power of altered states.

As the skeletons were found in a chimney and were covered in soot, there was an association for the artist with Charles Kingsley’s novel The Waterbabies. Some of the titles of these works are based on specific places mentioned in Kingsley’s novel, but the paintings serve as a wider reference to loss, change, discovery, redemption and reinterpretation.