Weekend Showcase : Heather Burns (Artist)

4 Oct


Every Friday, 1 creative, letting their work speak for itself.


Heather Burns


K's image of Fence

 The Fence


I have chosen to share this particular painting after much deliberation, as it marked the start of a very rich seam of responses to images and sketches that came from a long holiday spent in France over the summer of 2009. I made the painting of this and for ‘Lane’,’Chaos Granitique’ and ‘Meadow’ over the winter months of that year and into  the next up to Easter and beyond.

My ‘New Red Flower Painting’ 2013 came from a sketch made on that same holiday. I was surprised at how the paintings just seemed to make themselves and to totally evoke the particular time, feeling and experience of responding to the summer, whether in the sacred space of the lane, or the in the garden of the house where I was staying. I felt that I had come alive again as an artist through this holiday and experience. I was able to time-travel in the winter months through these pieces back to the exact time and place where the original sketch was made. This was a very special feeling for me, a revelation. I had done it before in previous works, like ‘Geronimo’s Window’ of 1989, but somehow thought that may have been a fluke somehow.

With ‘ The Fence’ I discovered I could repeat the experience. The texture of the leaves and the very particular style of French country fencing with its bleached blonde wood, came back into my consciousness completely. This was a wonderful surprise to me. The subsequent works such as ‘Lane’ flowed ever more urgently out of me. It was as if the time in France was made to last forever. The experience of looking at the work brings back the experience in a complete way that I view as a gift from the place. I wanted to share this with you.

‘The Fence’ surprised me when it manifested itself. It was almost as if the painting had made itself before I created it. Just as when a child is born and you think,’ I should have known it was you,’ I felt the same about this piece. It opened the door to so much more. It continues to influence current responses, namely the final piece that I have recently completed in the ‘Medea’ series for ‘Transformations’ for Artipeeps. Recent work may be more raw and abstract in nature, but it couldn’t have come into being without ‘The Fence’


Artist’s Biography:

My name is Heather Burns and I am a practising Artist and Art Teacher at Clitheroe  Royal Grammar School, Clitheroe , Lancashire, England. I was brought up in St.Bees Cumbria, and attended the Village Primary School, and after that the Grammar School in the next town of Whitehaven.

The village of St.Bees still means home in so many ways, and I have revisited it many times over the years resulting in the series of paintings :’St.Bees Rocks’ which you can view on my website heatherburns.co.uk The red sandstone is so characteristic of the place, and the headland on the beach constantly drew me back.

The sea was always part of my days, especially as so much time was spent exploring the countryside and walking the dog. I always miss the sea, and that sense of something absent is what I am exploring currently with my Lyme Regis painting.

Childhood was spent largely outside playing and dreaming with the sea as a constant presence. I took it for granted a lot of the time, and it is only now when it is no longer with me that I appreciate the role that it plays for me. I can hear the sound of it as I write this for you.

I went to Leeds University to study Fine Art, and travelled to Norway to research Edvard Munch’s work as part of my studies. I was able to see the originals not on display in the store at the Munch Museum, and that memory remains with me to this day. His fluid mark making and uncompromising ability to explore many taboo areas still has an influence on my practice as in my recent ‘Medea’ work.

I then decided to take my Art Teacher’s Certificate at Leeds in the year following my degree. I also got married at the end of that year to the love of my life Tony. My first teaching job was at one of the Village Colleges in Cambridgeshire, and we spent the next three years there. The demands of teaching meant it was difficult to do much of my own work, but I did make large pastel drawings as they were relatively quick, and managed to keep going with some painting.

We moved to Ely in Cambridgeshire in 1983 and my eldest son Patrick was born there. I was very happy in our little cottage and kept going with my pastel drawing, but the demands of motherhood meant that my art took something of a back seat. The drawing I did do I was happy with, and I gradually got enough work together to have a show at ‘The Old Fire Engine House’ in Ely. I had stopped art teaching and was teaching English as a Foreign Language in Cambridge in the holidays so that I could spend more time with Patrick.

We moved to Clitheroe in Lancashire in 1987, as we were missing the hills and I wanted Patrick to have stony streams to play in. I quickly got an art teaching post at the Grammar School here covering a maternity leave. Our second son Simon was born in 1988. I’ve been here ever since.! It’s been a great place to raise a family. The school has also been a significant part of my life, and has a sixth form which I always wanted to include in my teaching.

As far as the development of my own work was concerned, I found a way of working whereby I would explore motifs in the landscape in the form of ‘recce’s’ often with the family, then I go back under my own steam and draw ‘plein air’ uninterrupted, then make my paintings back in the studio.

I had a show at the Haworth Gallery in Accrington, and gradually have managed to build a body of work that represents my interest in a sense of place and the narratives that they hold.

I am moving back to working in oils after experimenting with acrylic. I am finding this exciting as the resistance on the brush and the lush colour obtainable suits my work at the moment. I have learned a great deal over the years from the practicing artists that I have worked with, especially Ian Murphy whose thinking on colour taught me so much, and his uncompromising way of working in the landscape directly from the motif. All this came through my teaching and I am immensely grateful. These things come together to bring me to where I am now.

My work has recently been on show at my brother’s gallery in Askham , near Penrith, in the Lake-district, stuartbroadhurstceramics.co.uk and I am very appreciative of the opportunity to show my work there. It has been a great springboard for me. I am currently looking for a larger venue in the north of England to show my paintings, so that you can stand back to appreciate the scale as several are quite large. I always thought I would do my best work in my 50’s for some reason. My art has always been central to my life, and the need to create will always be there. If what I am trying to say through it can reach folk in some way it will make me very happy.


 You can follow Heather on Twitter here:



* As Heather indicated, she is one of the 15 artists involved in our ‘Transformations’ poetry and art Exhibition at Hanse House in Norfolk, September 2014

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