Interview With Gerard M Burns and His Brush With Inspiration

Last week I was invited to attend a very special exhibition at The GCU (Glasgow Caledonian University  - Soho Campus) A Brush with
Inspiration A series of Portraits by Gerard Burns of Glasgow Scotland, and what an event it was.

After meeting a large portion of the Burn’s family  - Mother, Son’s, Sister, Cousin’s I was heart struck and touched deeply by the show of
affection and love for this very special person.
Gerard is honest and genuine two qualities I admire and cherish in people and something I don't come across often in a town that can be filled
with posers and pretentious numnuts. Sorry NY but you know its true and these people I mention shame on you and please take note in the
following and do the right thing from here on in.

I knew immediately that an interview was in order because this was no accident and  these people were here to support Gerard for some very
important reasons, and were not just talking about family and friends were talking  major celebrities  heads of state educational institutions and
well just an overall turnout of powerful people.

Gerard Burns is an artist and was also a teacher back in Glasgow Scotland, but now hes painting full time and thank god. His portraits are
real  - so real they carry a ghostly quality
like the Hollywood horror movies of yesteryear where the eyes in the paintings follow you.
Or at least that was one of my many responses to these incredible portraits.

Spirituality  - yes thats a better way to express my feelings about his work.
There is a spiritual quality to these works that brings them to life.

I had the chance to sit down for an intimate and private interview with Gerard a few days after the opening exhibition at The GCU.
I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

He opened our conversation with a bit of Philosophy.

Gerard Burns: Im a great believer in the whole notion of thresholds.
Especially when art gallery’s are concerned. Its a very big deal to for people to cross them
(The Door to the GCU was wide open to the public on a Sunday afternoon in Soho and we stood at the top of the steps looking at the people
walking by when he opened with this)

TNYO: I agree 100% and I usually don't have a huge problem with thresholds but once in a while I will hesitate depending on the

Gerard Burns: Absolutely and if its something you don't have to do… its fifty -  fifty so you miss the opportunity of someone coming in just
for the sake of the door being open but Spring is here and the weather should be good for the next five days so it should be perfect.

TNYO: So Gerard you live in NY city?

Gerard Burns: No, no I live in Glasgow Scotland.

TNYO: Oh you mentioned you were moving apts so I thought you lived here.

Gerard Burns: No were renting while we are here for the next few weeks.

TNYO: So please tell me about your art, how did you get started, how long have you been painting and drawing?

Gerard Burns: I have been doing this professionally for about 17 years.
I’ve always been an artist I always did this, but the background that I have the upbringing that I have there were no artists so the notion that
you could grow up and be an artist was utterly alien, you know like maybe being a spaceman or something  - you know’ you have to
understand my family we were very working class so I came from ship builders, roofers, plumbers, joiners,

TNYO: All Craftsmen.

Gerard Burns: Yes all craftsmen absolutely.
So im the first across the generations to have gone to art school and to pursue a career in art
So a lot of it has to do with self belief and I did what a lot of artists do I went into teaching
I was a teacher for ten years, and I eventually ended up as what we call in Scotland as a principal teacher so I headed that department and I
loved that and I absolutely loved teaching,
but I was conscious all the time that I was not really doing what it was I wanted to do.
and it got to a cathartic point when I was actually feeling unwell and I thought I have to make a decision, what am I going to be for the rest of
my life? Then I took the plunge and at that point I was already painting and I had a certain degree of success as an artist, I won a couple of
fairly prestigious prizes, but still letting go of the steady income, when you have three young children, a mortgage thats a big big ask, and
perhaps it was even a bigger ask of my wife (note Gerard speaks with a heavy Scottish accent so some words are being written verbatim as I
do love this accent) So she stood by me, she was convinced that it was something that perhaps we should have a go at, but the bizarre thing
was going from believing that it would be a challenge and the actual fact was that the money took care of itself almost immediately.
The difference between being a teacher and being a full time artist in terms of how I was perceived was massive and the value of my work
almost tripled overnight because I was taking it seriously.

TNYO: Ok so you knew you were an artist and you have been painting 17 years professionally, you were a teacher i'm going to assume at an
art school in Scotland.

Gerard Burns: No it was a senior school effectively I was the head of the art department so that would be teaching children from the age of
12 to 17 before they went on  to college

TNYO: Wow yes the formative years bringing them into it. Fantastic, and this was in  Glasgow Scotland, what is the art scene like in

Gerard Burns: Its very vibrant, The Glasgow school of art….  - there are three very good art schools in Scotland
Glasgow Edinburgh and Dundee  - there was an emphasis for many years  particularly in Glasgow on painting we had produced a few very
big names in the eighties but Glasgow is probably more renowned for contemporary side of the art scene. we have the Turner prize in the UK
possibly the biggest one and very prestigious and The Glasgow school of art has produced five of the last ten Turner prize winners.. so the
contemporary art scene is very strong in Glasgow, painting perhaps not so strong, over the last 20 years maybe ..

TNYO: You mean painting has been on the rise, or what do you mean by contemporary

Gerard Burns: No I mean contemporary like piles of bricks in large empty galleries

TNYO: So Installation Art

Gerard Burns: Installation type of works a lot of video performance for example one of the  artists named Simon Starling won the Turner
prize by putting two pieces of blue tack on the wall of the gallery that was his exhibit

TNYO: Giggles a bit  - But hey man who's to say what’s what right:

Gerard Burns: Yes I would rather not comment on that but if it works for you absolutely fine, but thats the way things have gone in the
Glasgow school of art, and I think painting is due to have a better revival, the problem with painting and the  problem with realism in painting
is the subject matter, I don't think a lot of artists really know what they want to see first and foremost.
So it doesn't matter how good your hand skills are it doesn't matter how well you can paint if don't have anything to say your hand skills
really count for nothing and I think theres a bit of a lack in terms of maybe education about how realism in art.. how powerful it can be, If
you go back to the masters if you go back to the Rembrandt's go back to Velázquez, go back to these people and look at what they did

TNYO: Do yo have a favorite?

Gerard Burns : I think  Velázquez
perhaps Holbein, but all of my favorites are century’s ago.

TNYO: So when you talk about art and you talk about artists do you think schooling is an absolute necessity? Can you make great art without
going to school at all mainly because you have this great gift?

Gerard Burns: Personally I believe no is the answer to that question, would you expect a concert pianist someone who has beautiful music
inside them suddenly as if by magic step onto stage and be able to play a concerto? Its a ludicrous proposition you need the hand skills people
need to learn the craft.

TNYO: Well see the reason why I ask you that question is because I am a self taught artist
and musician and when I was working as an artists I did have some degree of success, but I understand what you're saying because learning
the rules and the craft allow you to have so much more information to allow you to express yourself.

Gerard Burns: And also you have technique, its such an undervalued commodity, I watched children as a teacher exploding with ideas but had
no facility no means to express themselves,
Unless you give people technique, unless you have a certain basic set of hand skills how do you express those ideas? How many times have
artists been frustrated by the lack of ability to actually get onto canvas what they have got in their heads

TNYO: That brings up another question and another idea which is I work with a lot fine artists
people who have degrees in the arts and they are creating realism like these portraits here and ya this what you call fine art, realism and photo
realism etc.. and what kills me is how hard a time  many artists have making a living, anyway I congratulate you on coming this far and i'm
certain this interview will serve as inspiration for the artists and those who want to be artists.
Your sister is such a sweetheart is she an artist?

Gerard Burns: Jerry  - Jerry is very gifted she is not a visual artist she is a musician if you go online and check
Jerry Burns Facebook Itunes
___- she has a huge body of work, she has done a lot of work with this composer Craig Armstrong shes a brilliant songwriter and a
mesmerizing performer on stage she also was accepted to go to art school in Scotland she chose not to go towards the visual side of things
although she’s a fantastic photographer she hasn't really pursued that aspect.

TNYO: How did you decide to make this show and make this leap from Scotland to NY although this is the NY Branch of The Glasgow
University, how did you come together with these amazing people, famous actors politicians, leaders in business, I mean these people would
not have worked with you if you were not the real deal, how did this all come about?

Gerard Burns: Well to get the best from people you have to make a connection so things will go well, and its the same with every individual
here, I am not precious about what I do I'm not particularly like well this is  my art, like its all about me, I'm more interested in trying to tease
the best out from my sitters literally when we start to speak about it, Im like ok well tell me about this painting,
You describe to me the painting were about to make.
Im listening very carefully for all the subtle verbal cues as well as the visual cues.
This all came about as the result of a conversation at last years Scotland week and I was asked if I would be prepared to put on an exhibition
in the 2015 Scotland week event, and of course I was delighted to be asked but the problem with a Scottish artist bringing forth paintings that
as strong as those paintings might be… wheres the narrative, the show is called A Brush with inspiration and its flattering to the sitters because
literally they are inspirational characters.
So instead of just bringing over some paintings I would focus the exhibition on Scotland itself.
Paying attention to a number of successful, powerful and  diverse group of Scottish individuals, in doing that you may have instantly come in
touch with 16 - 17 different stories to tell.
The story is not just Gerard Burns Scottish Man in NY with his paintings, The story is Gerard Burns with Billy Connolly the story is Gerard
Burns Alan Cumming, and Gerard Burns Ewan Mcgregor, so you have far more to offer in terms of the narrative and the visual

TNYO: Of course its brilliant its also great marketing and a great presentation with foundation and an amazing background story to work from.

Gerard Burns: They all bring so much to the experience incredible personalities and talents

TNYO: Alan Cumming is a home run what a sweetheart of a guy,

Gerard Burns: He is but you have to realize these people are all put upon every minute of every day people want a piece of them, so when it
came to work with Alan I took his shoulders in my hands and told him you are here as my guest you are here as my friend you do not have to
agree to have a single photograph taken you don't need to speak publicly the fact that you have come here today is everything I could have
asked for and think what you end up doing is creating the context we're not going to use you, you're here to participate the same as
everybody else in this room, and that changes things it changes the nature of what happens there after

TNYO: Its takes the pressure off.

Gerard Burns: Absolutely and it makes it easier for them to say yes to be generous rather than it being expected of them.

TNYO: Its a collaboration.

Gerard Burns Exactly every single one of these paintings is a collaboration and thats it in a nutshell.

TNYO: We shook hands and both seemed to be satisfied with the outcome of this interview so I was on my way out and then I forgot I
needed to ask one of the most important questions, Have the sale of these paintings been successful? Does the University fund the work?

Gerard Burns: All sales of the paintings go directly to charity.

TNYO: Confirming not only is Gerard a sweetheart of a guy but smart, smart, smart!!
Thank you Gerard and the GCU for inviting me to this glorious event.                 
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Interview With Gerard M Burns
"A Brush with Inspiration"
Laura Fraser
Billy Connolly
Alan Cumming
Brian Cox
Donna Nairi
Kirsty Wark
Nicola Sturgeon
Lynda Logan
Alan Linn
Helena Kennedy
Iona Crawford
Donal Brophy
Ewan McGregor
Born in Glasgow in 1961, Burns graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1983 with a degree in Fine Art. Drawing and Painting have been
his passion since childhood. He shared this enthusiasm throughout his teaching career, later leaving a successful post as principal of art at St
Aloysius College Glasgow to pursue his painting full time. Since 1999 this commitment has resulted in his current standing as one of Scotland’
s most respected artists.Gerard M Burns

His growing client base varies from A-list celebrities to prominent members of business communities in the UK, Australia, Europe and the
USA who collect his work for both personal and corporate folios. His paintings, most noted for their modern day translations of traditional
themes, grace homes and workplaces worldwide. An example of this is the addition last year of his painting “The Rowan” which the Scottish
First Minister hangs proudly over his desk at the Scottish Parliament.
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