Arnold Burrell's final works were a culmination of all he had acquired, known and created from deep within his being – powerful, reverberant images, especially of the land and how our human legacy has affected it... not all the effects of which we can be proud.
In too many ways homo sapiens has become a weed of 'our' earth and may ultimately self-destruct. In early 1990, Burrell was partway through the first of the new large oil landscapes. His increasing enthusiasm was palpable and optimistic. He worked ever more steadily, his critical eye most supportive. When he put his mind to a smaller painting, to continue his disciplined habit of a lifetime, it would often be a figure rather than a landscape. Then the return to larger ones advanced with undiminished authority and eager anticipation of what next was surfacing on his conscious mind. Burrell portrayed his own truth through his given means. The longer a work that has caught your attention is contemplated, the more you see in it. And once your spirit is snagged, the more you think in unexpected directions. It may not have been what he was thinking while painting it, but it's your response that affects you. And that's what he hoped would happen, why he painted.
Just over a dozen works were completed in that up-beat last year, five of them large and legendary, the others smaller and legendary. But that winter, a particularly nasty 'flu arrived at the studio. At first the usual symptoms only slowed him down. He continued to paint but for fewer periods each day before he tired...
His best-laid plans were cancelled when it was discovered the symptoms were actually those of cancer. At the age of 67, he passed on in late spring of 1991 - yet he is ever present in the legacy he left.
For forty years Arnold Burrell supported himself through painting - at a time of cultural crossroads and an eruption of artistic articulation: the second half of the 20th century. In early years, two were purchased for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and one for the Provincial Art Collection of British Columbia. As well as sketchbooks and journals there is written and verbal evidence of approximately two to three thousand works in collections on walls of North America and some in Europe.