Ask Gerard M Burns to define himself as an artist and he will say he is a painter of people. Its no surprise therefore that portraiture would form a major part of his overall artistic output. For many artists the ability to produce a portrait stands and falls simply on the ability to depict a likeness, for Burns however the likeness should be a given, and the actual point of the portrait is much more to do with how the sitter is presented, rather than simply what the sitter looks like.
Over the last two or three years Burns embarked upon a truly monumental series of portrait exhibitions, one in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games in 2014 where he produced 14 paintings of both well known, and lesser known Scots as a celebration of that sporting event in the city. The following year in 2015 he produced a further 15 paintings which were exhibited in New York during Scotland week. These sitters included well known Scottish individuals such as Billy Connolly, Alan Cumming, Ewan McGregor, Kirsty Wark and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to name but a few, as well as leading figures from the business world.
Burns portraits hark back to a golden era of portraiture and he takes as his mentors the greats in portrait painting such as Rembrandt, Anthony van Dyck, Velasquez and the greatest Scottish portrait painter of all time Henry Raeburn. These are the individuals against whom he judges himself and these are the artists he wishes to be judged in comparison to.
Although often referred to as almost ‘photographic’ Burns’ portraits when viewed in the flesh are actually very painterly, in order therefore to fully appreciate them its worth making the effort to try to get to see one of them in the flesh, either at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery or perhaps the Scottish parliament.