THE SIX FOOT GALLERY INTERVIEW: Fiona Burrows (Awakenings)

Six Foot Gallery is delighted to present its annual spring show, Awakenings, featuring twenty-seven artists working in a diverse range of mediums and disciplines including sculpture, soundscapes, textiles, collage, video, woodturning, jewellery, photography, screenprinting, performance, and painting.

Fiona explores local and personal identities and histories from a feminist perspective through the processes of painting, drawing and printmaking.  This recent body of work used family photos and found archive imagery as inspiration.  The work explores family dynamics, societal expectations, and the stages of womanhood – resulting in abstracted figurative works. She began her professional artistic journey at Leith School of Art, attending evening classes alongside her career as a primary teacher before spending 2 years on The Painting Course.  She also studied painting at Gray’s School of Art, drawing at the Royal Drawing School and printmaking at Peacock’s print studio and Edinburgh Printmakers. 

Hi Fiona! How did you arrive at the theme of your work?
When I was in primary school, I was assigned a homework project to interview my granny about her experience in the WW2 Blitz. It was a project researching the anniversary of those events during lockdown which developed my interest in working from archives and family photos. I have always been interested in history and how stories from the past and myths shape our lives now. I love a period drama on TV! 

How has your practice changed over time?
I get bored easily so I love trying new mediums, but I always come back to oil painting.  I’ve moved away from more realistic and detailed final pieces towards outcomes which are looser and more expressive.  I have also begun to play with scenes and narrative, which draw from memory and imagination as well as from observation.

How do you know when a piece is complete?
It can go one of two ways – either I make the piece and it’s finished straight away “one and done”… or it will take an age and be subject to a push and pull process ending up quite unrecognisable from the first moments. In those cases, I have to work hard to avoid the lure of newer exciting projects.  I know it’s done when I feel that it portrays the message I’ve had in mind as I paint, or when it has to be on a wall somewhere!

How do you overcome creative blocks?
Julia Cameron has lots of sage advice in her book The Artist’s Way.  I regularly remind myself “I take care of the quantity and the quality will take care of itself” and “to make good art you must make lots of bad art”!

Which artists inspire you? Are there non-artistic influences such as literature or music that impact your work?
My favourite contemporary artists are Alexis Soul-Gray, Andrew Cranston, Caroline Walker, Luc Tuymans and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.  I’m also inspired by great creatives of the past such as Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Eardley, Paula Rego and Alice Neel. Street photography also inspires my work – particularly the work of Oscar Marzaroli and Roger Blomfield and local history archives.  I love reading books and listening to podcasts about feminism, history, gender and identity. My music taste is broad and my painting titles are often from songs which come to mind as I paint.

Will your next project be a continuation of your current style or are you experimenting with something different? Can you share a glimpse of your next project?
I will be working on printmaking for the next few months using VACMA funding I received through Creative Scotland.  I am hoping this will lead to exciting outcomes, as well as composition ideas for future paintings once I find a studio space in Glasgow.

You can find out more about Fiona and her work on Instagram @fionaburrowsart and her website. Awakenings runs at Six Foot Gallery until Friday 24th May.

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