Rising Star: Alice Burns

DIY artist who arranges her own exhibitions and does her own fundraising

You are curating the Emerging v Established exhibition in St Anne's Square this month. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It can be difficult for graduates to get into exhibitions after their degree show, especially in places like Belfast so I decided to organise an exhibition myself and invite emerging and established artists to take part. It's opening on August 20. It's a fusion of contemporary art and artists. The title is a bit tongue in cheek, Emerging v Established, a play on the feeling that emerging artists may have. The struggle to get into an exhibition is sometimes a bit like a battle. The majority of the work is new and I think visitors will enjoy the diversity in the exhibition, from photography to a painted toilet and everything in between.

Can you tell us a little about some of the other artists in the exhibition?

Betty BrownKeith Winter is doing a practice based PHD at the University of Ulster and is known for, amongst other things, Space Delawab which recently had its final show. Winter's work plays with the production of space, creating factitious representations, altered histories and feral territorialisation using temporal boundaries and interruption. He uses installation, drawing, video and noise to extrude the social footprints in society and present a distorted portrayal of reality.

Betty Brown is another of the exhibiting artists. A recurring theme in Brown’s work has been the exploration of the human/animal relationship in sculptural form, using animals to convey human characteristics, by using accessible materials taken from the household, wardrobe and abandoned toy box. The use of 'fur' invites touch and sensation and has an appeal for children, which contravenes the usual 'Do Not Touch' policy of most galleries.

Are there any pieces you are particularly impressed with?

I like all of the work in the exhibition. It is difficult to choose just one. Two that really stand out for me are Anna Savages’ painting, 'A Shoal of Mackerel. Sparkle Fire. Phosphorescence. II'. I fell in love with Anna’s painting in 2009 and desperately want to own one. The thing about her painting for me is the colour and depth of the work. In this work the dominant colour is a dark blue with touches of almost florescent oranges, blues and reds. Look closely and the texture in the work becomes apparent. The work draws one in and compels the viewer to discover what lies in the depths

Geraldine Owens work '#9740' is another I admire. Geraldine is a recent graduate of the University of Ulster. I first saw this work at her degree show and was immediately taken with it. The forms are very sensuous yet calming. Her art is the kind that one wants to pick up and caress. I have handled some of the pieces and the textures of the plaster are very pleasing. I am sure we are going to see a lot more of Geraldine’s work in the near future.

Was it a challenge organizing the exhibition?

In some areas it has been. Funding is non-existent for individuals so the exhibition has been organised on a shoe string budget. Getting sponsorship is a very big challenge, especially for a pop-up exhibition that is taking place on a short time scale. Organising other artists has been described as 'trying to herd cats'. I think that's an apt description. The artists have been great though and we are lucky that so many established artists have been willing to give us emerging artists the benefit of their experience.

On your website you are encouraging people to join in on a raffle for university fees? How's the In Memoriam by Alice Burnsfundraising going?

Very slow. I think people are suspicious of the Internet. I decided to try and raise funds as I had a place on the MA Art in Public and no money. There is no funding available for most MAs. Doing things online is as natural to me as selling a ballot ticket in person. I have been teaching computing and creative multimedia for six years and been using computers since the 1980s. It just seems the natural thing to do. The competition to raise funds in the real world is great, and many people are jaded by the amount of ‘charities’ that pervade the streets. Plus people can either go to my site or not, I am not pressurising them.

Who is your favourite Northern Irish artist?

There are so many as I like a diverse range of art. At the moment I am enjoying the work of Betty Brown. Brown hails from Ballywalter in County Down. She is an associate of the Royal Ulster Academy. I have known Betty for many years and she is one of my favourite Northern Irish Artists and a great inspiration. Her mixed media sculptures are playful yet contain a serious narrative. She always amazes me with her ability to create such lively pieces from virtual rubbish. Her paintings are not bad either.

If you could have dinner with any cultural figure from throughout history, who would they be and why?

I would love to have dinner with Audrey Hepburn in New York. Why Audrey Hepburn? I believe she would make an excellent dinner companion as she has had a rich and varied life. Not only was she a great actress, but an ambassador for UNICEF. Her childhood experiences in Holland during the war would make for a very interesting conversation. New York, just because it's New York and I love it, there is always something new to discover in that city.

The Emerging v Established artists will be at Units 4 and 5 in Saint Anne's Square from Aug 21 - 31. Alice Burns raffle is online at her website.

Tammy Moore