The Real Face of Burns

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The range of interpretations of Robert Burns in The Real Face Burns shows us the variety of influences the poet has had in the past centuries. With artworks including new interpretations and ones which relate to more familiar ones the exhibition provides a vast insight into the representations of our bard.

Graham Fagen To See Ourselves as Others See Us (colour)
Graham Fagen, To See Ourselves as Others See Us (colour) 2015 Pencil, Enamel and Indian Ink on a Giclee Print
Graham Fagen To See Ourselves as Others See Us (bw)
Graham Fagen, To See Ourselves as Others See Us (b&w) 2015 Pencil, Enamel and Indian Ink on a Giclee Print

I particularly like the variety of media used by the different artists: pin-heads, steel, gold leaf, ceramics, gesso, graphite and Indian ink. All the different processes of production are also very interesting: there are drawings, paintings, lego toys and photographic prints.

Forensically reconstructed Head of Robert Burns Facial depiction produced by Prof Caroline Wilkinson, Dr Chris Rynn, Caroline Erolin and Janice Aitken from the University of Dundee
Forensically reconstructed Head of Robert Burns
Facial depiction produced by Prof Caroline Wilkinson, Dr Chris Rynn, Caroline Erolin and Janice Aitken from the University of Dundee
Burns 2009 Painted steel panel
David Begbie, Burns 2009 Painted steel panel

The exhibition features works from world-famous artists, including To See Ourselves as Others See Us (b&w) and To See Ourselves as Others See Us (colour), by Graham Fagen (who is representing Scotland at the 2015 Venice Biennale). We have a life size model of Burns’ head, which was reconstructed using Burns’ skull and silhouette images of the poet, by forensic scientists at the University of Dundee. David Begbie’s Burns is a painted steel piece which represents an image of the poet that visitors familiar with him would recognise. The artist plays with space by lighting the sculpture strategically, creating a unique viewing experience!

Burns - Shannon Laing (3)
Shannon Laing, The Young Ploughman Poet 2014 graphite on paper
Tom Gallant To gie them music was his charge
Tom Gallant To gie them music was his charge 2009 cut paper and collage

Another artist who uses an interesting technique is Shannon Laing, who explains her piece The Young Ploughman Poet by stating: ‘Using other artists’ representations of what Burns may have looked like, in addition to descriptions of his appearance, I took photographs of men with similar features to Burns in a photographic studio under continuous lighting conditions. I then used photo editing software to combine these particular features to create a single face, and used this amalgam as a reference for my final graphite portrait.’ However, my personal favourite doesn’t feature Burns’ face at all. Tom Gallant’s To gie them music was his charge is an example of how folk culture paired with literary and social history can provide inspiration to contemporary artists. This work is made from cut paper and collage. Overall The Real Face of Burns is an incredibly inspiring exhibition featuring some of Scotland’s most prominent and emerging artists. Well worth a visit!

Elena Trimarchi – Learning Intern

The exhibition will be running until Sunday 14th June, entry is free with admission to the Museum.

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