© 2012 Ursula Burke

So It Is

During March and April 2017 I undertook an artist residency at the Mattress Factory Museum, Pittsburgh. During my residency I made a new body of work which was exhibited in the group show titled So It Is, curated by John Carson and in tandem with six other Northern Irish artists - Willie Doherty, Locky Morris, Rita Duffy, John Kindness, Philip Napier and Paul Seawright.


The installation i created was made up of two parts - porcelain sculpture and embroidery.

For more information on So It Is, with audio descriptions, video and images click here: SO IT IS

The Precariat


Each imperial dynasty, particularly in Roman history, sought to use various forms of representation to legitimize their authority. Using Parian porcelain, Burke emulates visual tropes from classical antiquity. Rather than enshrine the heroic or the powerful, Burke captures the darker side of revolution and conflict. Her portrait-sculptures are discomforting. The nameless faces of men and women are bruised and injured, never to be healed. Previous portrait-sculptures were loosely representational of a white western canon. However, during her residency at the Mattress Factory, Burke created a new body of porcelain busts in black, which seek to reference contemporary issues of representation, and the abuse of power relative to the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Embroidery Frieze - The Politicians, inspired by Baroque embroideries, depicts incidents of fighting politicians in parliament from all over the contemporary world. In the midst of rising global tensions, this work reflects upon the modern anxiety and rising levels of insecurity that has permeated all spheres of the personal and political and of which has come to typify contemporary experience.


Embroidery Frieze – The Politicians is a multi-panel, series of hand-embroidered works. Each panel is drawn from documentary images sourced from the net and is also representative of a single country and titled such.


This body of work was developed during the centenary of the Easter Rebellion marking Ireland’s struggle for liberation from colonial rule, and in the context of continuing negotiations in post-conflict Northern Ireland.


The use of a medieval palette of coloured threads within the work intentionally references historical period embroideries such as the Bayeux Tapestry which similarly utilities a panel or frieze narrative. Within the embroidery frame, the stitches operate in a rampant and staccato manner, following the folds in fabric or the contorted faces of the figures that offers great contrast to the controlled and minimal use of colour and line outside of the embroidery frame. The coloured threads that hang from the embroideries act as a formal exercise, isolating and heightening the tension between line and colour. This conceptual device creates a bridge between the frenzied battle for power within the embroidery and the gentle and alluring dissolution of that power as it slides out of the frame and down onto the floor.