Inside the Studio

Neal Burns

Favorite material to work with?
My favourite material to work with is oil paint; when it dries, it has the best quality of all paints. I also use acrylic paint in my work as it is a good medium for the base of a background colour. Oil paints allow me to blend colours and take more time working a piece. I also like to draw using pencils, fineliners, and colouring pencils.

What themes do you pursue?
My work is usually a fusion of figurative and abstract. In my paintings I display the inherent atomisation and alienation of the individual in the age we live in. I add abstract elements and painterly aspects to representational forms.

In today’s world information is everywhere and we are assaulted by its deluge on our senses. I represent information as form. I see my work as a dissection of form and a dissection of the artist’s gaze itself.

My influences are varied: Pablo Picasso, Kasamir Malevich, Andrei Tarkovski, Francis Bacon, Tim Eitel, and Stanley Kubrick to name a few.

Another thread in my work is my fascination with utopic/dystopic themes. Orwell, Huxley, Rudolph Steiner, and Fritz Lang have all influenced the ideation behind my work. Philip K. Dick is also a big influence on me. My work can seem futuristic but being born in the 20th century, the future is now. I just try to tackle the age we live in and its inherent existential themes.

How many years as an artist?
I’ve drawn all my life. I have always tried to create my own worlds ever since I was a child. I used to write illustrated stories with maps. I started to consider myself an artist in my late teens when I began to take it seriously as a life path. I’m 33 now so I suppose the first time I drew with a pencil was the start of my life creating art.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
When I was a child and beginning to draw, my father who passed away a few years ago gave me some good tips. He worked in advertising and was an excellent calligrapher and painter. Thanks, Dad!

Where is your studio?
My studio is my bedsit in the Dublin suburb of Rathmines. It’s a nice leafy place with Georgian houses developed into flats.

Art school or self-taught?
I attended art courses and studied at art university for a year, but the structure wasn’t for me so I would consider myself self-taught.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?
Music has always been a source of inspiration for me since I was a teenager. I grew up listening to artists like David Bowie and Brian Eno because my older brothers and sisters were listening to them. I listen to all genres of music from classical to jazz to ambient. I usually have the radio tuned into Raidió na Life or RTE’S Blue of the Night. Like art, music is something I can’t live without.

What’s around the corner from your place?
Tesco, Aldi, Lidl.

Where can we find you outside of the studio?
On Sundays I visit my mother and the rest of the week, I can be found going round cafés such as Lemon on Dawson Street. I don’t go to pubs or nightclubs because of the recession so I visit friends’ places.

Favorite contemporary artist?
At the moment my favourite contemporary artist would be Gabriel Orozco.

What do you collect?
I collect clothes from second-hand shops.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?
The Arnolfi wedding portrait by Jan van Eyck because I love the way the light is captured in it. It’s a beautiful meditative piece. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I feel I’ve been there before when I look at it.

Is painting dead?
As long as there have been people on earth, there has been painting; as long as people paint, it will not die.