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Ursula Burke × Niamh Brown

I first encountered Ursula Burke’s series of embroideries during her solo exhibition Vestiges at Ormston House in 2016. It was the beginning of an ongoing series originally made to coincide with the centenary of the Easter Rebellion. Like her Parian porcelain busts, Burke’s embroideries combine classical techniques with contemporary themes; in this case, Baroque tapestries and internet-sourced documentary images.

These meticulously hand-constructed friezes depict scenes of politicians engaged in physical fights in parliament around the world. Thrown punches, reaching arms and dishevelled suits are re-created with minimal use of colour and decisive thread work that combine to depict the tension in each moment. During a year with much political and social uncertainty and anxiety, both at home and overseas, these embroideries feel even more surreal given our current physically distant reality.

Niamh Brown is curator and producer based in Limerick City. She is Co-Director of Ormston House and Creative Producer of EVA International.

Ursula Burke, The Politicians, 2018

Embroidery thread, cotton, wood, & lead weights

180 cm x 60 cm
Installation views, A False Dawn
Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, September 2019. Courtesy of the artist
Ulster Museum, Belfast, March 2020. Courtesy of the National Museums, NI

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Ursula Burke is an Irish artist who works in a variety of media including porcelain sculpture, embroidery sculpture and drawing. Burke recently had a solo exhibition at the Ulster Museum titled A False Dawn; and undertook an artist residency at Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, with a solo exhibition also titled A False Dawn in September 2019. She is winner of the Golden Fleece Award and the Visual Artists Ireland Suki Tea Award (March 2018). She undertook an artist residency and group exhibition titled So It Is at the Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh (Jan – April 2017) and was awarded the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British School at Rome Fellowship in 2014. She is Joint Prize Winner of the Claremorris Open, Ireland 2015. Other solo exhibitions include The Precariat, The RHA Gallery, Dublin 2018; The Precariat, The Dock Arts Centre, Leitrim; a solo presentation at Supermarket Art Fair Stockholm with Ormston House, (March 2017); Vestiges at Ormston House, Limerick (September 2016) & Vestige at the Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin (May 2016). She undertook a major solo exhibition titled Hope for a Better Past with the MAC, Belfast (2013) and worked with the National Portrait Gallery London on their National Memories Local Stories project during the same year. She is an Associate Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy, Belfast, Northern Ireland.