Peter Burns : Strange Things Happening

7 - 27 August 2020

Peter Burns paintings are playful re-workings of myths, Biblical stories, art historical, literary and musical themes. In the paintings people are shown in relation to nature and the universe. Small figures of people and animals exist and roam in a painted world. A variety of techniques are used to enliven the surfaces of the paintings. Chunks of old dried paint from the palette are attached to the canvas in places, while on other parts of the canvas paint is scraped off revealing underlying layers. Exoticism flavours the work with allusions to faraway places, to Japanese art and Russian literature. Infinity is suggested in the sky, in the stars and the planets. They are colorful paintings with a sense of humor. They are daring and experimental, each one a self contained world. 


Burns earned his BA in Sculpture and MFA in Painting from The National College of Art & Design, Dublin & exhibited in Futures Anthology at The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin in November 2015. He participated in Introspective, an exhibition of self portraits at BravinLee Programs, NY, (2016) and showed a selection of works on paper with Exhibition A, NY, (2016) to coincide with the release of his limited edition print. Past solo exhibitions were held at Fenderesky Gallery Belfast, Hillsboro Fine Art Dublin and Claremorris Gallery. Selected group exhibitions include Last, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin; Making Familiar, Temple Bar Gallery and Futures, RHA Gallery, Fables of the Reconstruction, at David & Schweitzer Contemporary, NY. Burns has been featured in Wall Street International Magazine, The Sunday Times and ArtForum among others. He is a recent recipient of the Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant

Artist Statement

"I am particularly drawn to enigmatic and mysterious themes and attempt to combine a sense of wonder and humour in my work. I’m inspired by Americana especially in music. I often listen to the likes of Bob Dylan & Warren Zevon in the studio. Their modern myth making with it’s origins in ancient folklore appeals to me. I paint similar themes, Biblical stories and Greek myths with pop culture mixed in. I give my own twist to art historical favourites too, if there’s an apotheosis it could feature a Flying Saucer. My protagonist wears a hat and carries a guitar, the eternal wayfarer in the Land of Nod. I paint the murderous tendencies in human nature from Cain & Abel to the murder cabin in the woods. Dark deeds staged against the radiant backdrop of nature and an infinite universe. My paintings are mostly small in scale but in their themes I hope to suggest a vastness. Casper David Friedrich does that so well. 


Poetry and prose yield ideas too. I’ve been reading visionaries during the pandemic, William Blake & Aldous Huxley. Writing that transports and changes your whole sense of the world and yourself. I try and evoke a similar sense of wonder in my paintings. I draw images from the kaleidoscopic compound eye of Instagram. Humour is a vital enlivening element along with heightened colour. I dirty up the work, keeping all the scars on the canvas. Some end up lumpy and bumpy with many compositions painted over lying in layers beneath. When I’m working the physicality of the painted canvas suggests landscapes, mountains and rivers or where to put a person. I want the viewer to feel a painting’s weight or lightness opaque or transparent, put on with a brush or smeared with a fingertip. 


Growing up in the 80s movies with space age themes like Star Wars and ET blew my mind. That impact comes out in my work with alien visitors and other worlds. Visiting the National Gallery in Dublin, as a child, James Arthur O’Connor’s Poacher’s Moon captivated me. He’s there along with Robert Johnson and Norbert Schwontkowski when I paint a moonlit crossroads. The exuberance and conviction of Vincent Van Gogh is the guiding light. When you see those paintings in the flesh there’s nothing like it. The colours are preternaturally radiant, they emit light. This is the miracle of painting that I fell in love with."

Peter Burns, 2020