Ursula Burke is a multi-media artist based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, specializing in photography and sculpture. She is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Ulster Belfast.
She has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally, with upcoming solo exhibition in Catalyst Arts, Belfast, in March 2009. Recent exhibitions include State of Grace at The Third Floor Gallery, Minneapolis/ USA, Platform, Bailieborough/ Cavan and Something you may have missed at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast. Other exhibitions include Telegraph, Bilbao, Spain - 2007, Perspective, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast - 2006, Archive: Lisburn Road, Belfast Exposed - 2006, ‘Belf+st’, Liknovni Salon, Celje, Slovenia - 2006 and Routes, Belfast Exposed - 2005.
She has produced several publications:
• Art of Regeneration, in conjunction with Art of Regeneration, Bangor Borough Council (2007).
• The Politics of Remembrance, commissioned by the Cross Border Center, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland (2006).
• Archive Lisburn Road- The Material Culture of a Belfast Suburb, commissioned by Belfast Exposed Gallery, Belfast (2004).
• And the One Doesn’t Stir without the Other, in conjunction with The Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast (2004) following the guest co-curation of an exhibition under the same title, at Ormeau Baths Gallery, June 2003.
She was awarded an Individual Arts Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2001, 2002 and 2006. In 2004 she won an award to produce ‘And the One Doesn’t Stir without the Other’ from the Publications Assistance Scheme, Arts Council of Ireland. In 2005 the Arts Council of Northern Ireland selected her for the Winnipeg Exchange Residency. She was co-director of Catalyst Arts from 2000-2002, co-trustee of ‘In You We Trust’ residency programme at Cushendall from 2001 to 2007, Administrator of Queen Street Studios from 2003 to 2006, and Associate Lecturer at the University of Ulster from 2003-2006.
The commodification of Irish culture has become one of the country’s most successful exports. A construct of Irishness has been cultivated which relies on nostalgic representations of an ‘Ireland’ of the past served up in the present. This visual trope or representational strategy, which reinforces a curious conjunction or collision of heritage and modernity viewed at once, and often within the same construction, is at the core of these images. My method of working and approach seeks to reinforce the construction of particular versions of Irish identity and Ireland whilst simultaneously undermining them.
Within the frame of each image, the politics of identity and representation are crucial. The images contained within this series look to destabilize representations of Irish cultural authenticity, viewed in contemporary terms. As Irish citizens, visitors or members or the global Irish community, we share a conceptual map that allows us instant access to images of Ireland. Round Towers, Heritage sites, Celtic Crosses, Guinness, Riverdance, pastoral landscapes filled with an abundance of cows and sheep and so fourth are all routinely deployed as emblematic of an Irish experience, an Irish image. Contemporary images of Ireland, however are characterized by rising immigration levels, a wavering economy and the realization of the self, no longer through Catholicism, but through consumer choices. Ireland has become global.
The images within this series are highly constructed. Particular (Irish) contexts are chosen for the background image, with the middle ground image composed and floating between the picture planes. The ‘frame within a frame’ strategy is constructed in a manner that opens up a portal to the past within the present, or vice versa. The sense of artifice is relied upon and openly exposed within the images. This device is deployed in order to reinforce the fluid nature and construction of identity in general and more specifically, within Ireland.
In an era where Ireland is witness to a variety of racial confections and national borders are increasingly made more fluid, does this make Irish cultural characteristics and heritage seem more or less important?
State of Grace runs at Catalyst Arts, Belfast from 5th March to 4th April 2009.
For more information click here.