Three quick questions to Ursula Burke from Ormston House in Limerick, Ireland
With Supermarket 2017 on the doorstep and the Supermarket Magazine soon to be released, we caught up with artist Ursula Burke, the creator of the porcelain bust that is featured on the cover of this year’s Magazine edition. Ursula is exhibiting with Ormston House from Limerick (IE) and we asked her questions about her work with porcelain sculptures, her inspiration as an artist, and whether or not she has any particularly memorable, intimate moment in connection to art.
One of your porcelain sculptures is on the cover of our yearly magazine, can you tell us more about its background? Yes, that piece is part of a larger series of baroque busts that were exhibited at Ormston House, Limerick during September 2016. Vestiges is the title of this body of work, which refers to visible evidence of something that is disappearing or that no longer exists. Combining art historical techniques and contemporary themes, I made a suite of Baroque portrait-sculptures that question the legacy of art as a tool for political propaganda.
Each imperial dynasty, particularly in Roman history, sought to emphasise certain aspects of representation in an effort to legitimise their authority. Using Parian porcelain, famed for emulating the carved marble sculptures from Antiquity, I try to adopt visual tropes and surviving fragments of the Classical tradition in my approach. Rather than enshrine the heroic or the powerful, the work captures the darker side of revolution and conflict, and thus formalises the violence caught at a moment in time. The portrait sculptures are imbued with a potent discomfort: the nameless faces of men and women, bruised and injured, and never to be healed.
This body of work was developed during the centenary of the Easter Rebellion, marking Ireland's struggle for liberation from colonial rule, and in the context of continuing negotiations in post-conflict Northern Ireland. Through Vestiges, my hope is that the work speaks to an indeterminate point in the future when real, meaningful and lasting peace has been realised.
What has been your biggest inspiration as an artist?
My biggest inspiration would have to be the Baroque period in art. I'm always excited by the incredible baroque preoccupation between art and architecture, the use of light and shade and the ability to imbue a work with potent emotion. Artists such as Caravaggio and Bernini are huge influences in my work and I continue to learn both formally and stylistically from researching and viewing their work in the flesh. Creating a collision of influences from antiquity, embedded in contemporary signs and symbols, is what I attempt to do with my work.
Can you recall a specifically intimate moment in connection to art? Perhaps an exhibition or a certain piece? Yes, I was on residency at the British School in Rome during 2014 and I spent many days roaming from church to church to view the countless examples of incredible art. I had tried several times to visit the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria Della Vittoria, where Bernini's Ecstasy of Saint Theresa resides. Each time it was either closed or overflowing with tourists taking photos. On one occasion, at the end of the day near closing time, I tried my luck and found the church empty. The sculpture of Saint Theresa and the angel was exquisite and well worth the many failed visits. The heightened tension created by the use of forced perspective and secular eroticism that the work relates felt just incredible. As the light that tunnels through the top of the hidden window in the dome above the work began to fade, I slowly realised the sign in Italian which roughly translated to "For Light - 50 cents". I popped my money into the slot and on came several lights which illuminated every inch of the gold rays emanating from above, making the sculpture appear to float upwards. The fifty cent spent on this extra light afforded me a wonderfully intimate moment with the piece.