Lies Upon Sleepers
A slightly edited version of this piece appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on 2 March 2014.
Peter Burns is a young Dublin artist whose reputation received a deserved boost in the Futures 12 show at the RHA in 2012. He studied both sculpture and painting at NCAD and his current exhibition demonstrates this versatility. In addition to the fifteen paintings on show there are around 40 small brightly coloured sculptures of pink fleshy heads, fabulous beasts and sundry exotica. Burns artistic realm embraces the grotesque and the fantastical. The paintings contain references to art history particularly, and to literature and myth. The grotesqueries are rendered playful by the lightness of the colours used and the humour of the tiny throwaway details. Lies Upon Sleepers, his take on Fuseli's Nightmare, is a macabre exception to this general playfulness. There is a density of incident in a lot of the work that suggests Hieronymous Bosch - and there's a clear link between Burns' Demesne and The Garden of Earthly Delights. The self-portrait of the artist bestriding the mountains in Nemesis is surely Gulliver's reincarnation. But these connections shouldn't be overstated. Burns' work is highly original and full of humour. The latter a quality much neglected in the art world where po-faced earnestness often holds sway.
Hillsboro Fine Art
John P. O'Sullivan