Residency : Karly Burns - January, 2011



For the best part of January, a young woman has been working in a corner of the Aspire workshop, adding strokes of colour on a painting of huge proportions. Karly Burns is our latest artist in residence, and the first one to attend our new residency programme open to artists with disabilities.

Karly has been involved in the arts for several years: she went to Glasgow School of Art and did a BA in Fine Art, specialised in painting and printmaking, as well as a Masters in Research in Creative Practices.

During her Masters, Karly got to work with the organisation Momentum, she worked with children, people with mental health issues and alcohol addictions. “I want a career in community arts, which is why this residency is really interesting: I get to see how the tutors work with the participants, it inspires me for my career.” The residency is also a great opportunity for her to focus on her own work. “I haven’t made a lot of visual work during my Masters, as it was mainly written. Here I can go back into my own work, and as the place is huge, I can work on very big scale, which is something I haven’t done before. And I can spend a month on it!”

When asked why she chose to approach Project Ability for a residency, Karly Burns answers with a smile: “I like the place. My dad had a studio in King Street, and I have been a regular visitor to Trongate 103. I also visited the Connect programme a few times when I worked with Momentum. T103 is a lot more accessible now, so I have been trying to get involved with different organisations based here. I also did a film making course with GMAC.”

Some resident artists go into the residency with no real plan, and the idea is to see where the work will carry them. “Oh no, I had a plan, I knew what image I wanted to make! This work follows on from my degree show, and references Eve and the temptation in the Garden of Eden. I wanted to create a fantastical imaginary environment.” Karly is interested in the notion of femininity and the stereotypes of femininity. “In my degree show I used strong pinks and noticed the work got a lot of female attention.” Indeed, her striking painting is full of vibrant ‘girlie’ colours, and she plans on adding a pair of red stilettos under the tree. But there is also an underlying darkness. “It’s as if you were peeping through a hole in the bushes. Eve is the original sinner, and I feel women have taken on that. It transpires in the painting.”

Even though she also studied printmaking, Karly wanted to focus on painting. “I like printmaking, I like the finished product of a screenprint, but I prefer painting. It is more direct for me, I have more control on it, and need less help. I am more at ease with painting.”

The residency – and Karly’s painting- will soon be finished. Was it worth it? “Absolutely. After my degree I felt quite disheartened, and I didn’t want to paint because of the pressure I put upon myself. To get self-motivated to make your work and change your mindset after Art School is a learning curve! But this residency is a great way to get back into the work. There are people around you, so you can interact with them, get feedback, but without any pressure. I feel a lot more free!”

Karly Burns will be part of the Residency 2011 exhibition, with the other artists that will participate in our programme this year. The show will take place in January 2012. To see more of Karly's work, please visit

Images: top:finished painting, below: work in progress