Ian burn lost in rescue drama

THE art world is in mourning as news of the death of Ian Burn, Australia's leading conceptual artist, begins to circulate. Burn drowned on the South Coast yesterday while swimming with his daughters.
Milton police told the Herald Burn, 53, of Rozelle, was swimming at Pretty Beach, an unpatrolled beach in the Bawley Point area, about 35 km south of Milton.
THE art world is in mourning as news of the death of Ian Burn, Australia's leading conceptual artist, begins to circulate. Burn drowned on the South Coast yesterday while swimming with his daughters.
Milton police told the Herald Burn, 53, of Rozelle, was swimming at Pretty Beach, an unpatrolled beach in the Bawley Point area, about 35 km south of Milton.
"He was there swimming with his two daughters between 10 am and 11 am when the incident occurred," said Constable Greg Crumblin. "They had gone straight into the water and were swimming for a while with no dramas until a large wave came and everyone was in deep water. They were caught in a rip and got pulled out.
"One of the other girls there started screaming. Burn went to help her and held her up. Some guys on surfboards came to assist. Burn then actually made it back into shore, and then went back out to help someone else - just who, we're not sure.
"There is a feeling that it may have been one of his own daughters who he thought was still out there but I can't confirm that. Then one of the surfers went back out to help him but Burn had already gone under by the time he got there."
Constable Crumblin said Burn's body was eventually located and resuscitation was attempted with no result. His body was taken to Milton Hospital where a routine post mortem will be held today.
Burn had been an outstanding student at the National Gallery School in Melbourne. He left Australia to work in London and New York, where he became involved in the growing conceptual art movement and was a member of the influential conceptual art group Art and Language.
He returned to Australia in 1972 with a firm international reputation and became a key figure in Sydney's leading conceptual art gallery, Central Street Gallery.
In the late 1970s Burn kept a low profile, preferring to teach, write and work rather than pursue a gallery career. Eventually he left his teaching position in the Fine Arts department at the University of Sydney to become a founding member and director of Union Media Services. He continued to create, write and curate until his death.
Indeed, in the past year public interest in Burn's work reached a peak, with a retrospective at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Minimal-Conceptual Works 1965-1970, and the show Looking at Seeing and Reading, which he curated at Paddington's Ivan Dougherty Gallery with Nick Waterlow.
"There aren't many of whom you'd say they're indispensable but he really was," said Waterlow yesterday. "So seldom do find someone who is an artist, a writer, and a curator of exhibitions - Ian was all three and he wasn't only concerned with his own area - conceptual art. I remember reading his incisive writing on Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams, an incisiveness you wouldn't necessarily expect from a conceptual artist."
Obituary page 21
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 30-9-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 24
Section: News and Features
Length: 602
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First published in The Sydney Morning Herald

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