The Hospital Club, haven of the arts and hub for innovative creators is currently hosting an exhibition of Una Burke’s work. This is particularly fitting venue for Una, whose pieces resemble fine art objects that command the gallery space, so it is little wonder that she has already caught the attention of extreme haute couture lovers Daphne Guinness and Lady Gaga. Una breezily crosses the boundaries of art and fashion with garments that similarly transcend identity: Corsets and neck braces become armour or extensions to the human body. This season she has extended her art to film.

It is impossible not to admire the time and artistry that has been dedicated to these pieces. Una manipulates leather and metal studs with a dexterity that sees these tough materials woven and sculpted with seeming ease into organic forms. The colours are warm earthy browns, derived from Una’s natural dying methods. Indeed, Una states that she is keen to maintain the appearance of the man-made. 

Three pieces are suspended in the reception like rare specimens. An undone corset is a menacing enticement to try it on, and two neck braces offer terrifying restrictions for your arms. A figure kneeling on a plinth in the window with its head forced down and its arms in almost prayer position has a humanity that is made tragic by repression. The echo of a misshaped human form brings the absent body to mind. The contortion of the frames is such that it is built for a specific individual, yet the void in the empty shell reveals a figure without identity.

Una draws her inspiration from psychology and prosthetics. She is particularly interested in the psychology of trauma and the ways in which an individual deals with the loss of identity associated with this. Una also interchanges binary oppositions, as her pieces have a strong military aesthetic that mask vulnerability, and perceived deformity is sculpted into beauty. Una is transforming negative ordeal into positive works of art.

Words & Images Amy Lockwood

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