My Weekend: The sea is an ever-changing constant in my life

Bernadette Burns' work features in Sherkin Island’s annual Community Art Exhibition at the Community Hall, this month
My Weekend: The sea is an ever-changing constant in my life
Artist Bernadette Burns.

Bernadette Burns is an artist who lives and works on Sherkin Island. Prior to the Covid lockdown, she had a solo exhibition at Galway Arts Centre throughout January and February, entitled The Uncertainty of History — Remembering Eileen Quinn. This interdisciplinary exhibition used painting, drawing, video and installation work to explore concepts of memory, loss and rewritten histories. It is planned to travel this exhibition when some sort of normality returns to our lives.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Originally from Galway, I went to Dublin to study art at NCAD, and then taught on the Fine Art programme at DIT for many years. I was one of the instigators of BA Visual Art programme on Sherkin.

I first visited Sherkin Island when I was in my twenties. I fell in love with the place and the community, and felt a strong sense of belonging, of home. Afterwards I always spent a lot of time there, whenever I could.

My husband Fergus Murphy and I are fortunate to live here now. We are both painters and love the solitude. The light and the weather are constantly changing.

We begin each day with a walk on the beach before going to work in our studios. A golden lining of the Coronavirus was that our daughter Róisín, who has been living in Sydney for nine years, came home and has lived with us for almost five months.

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

When Covid is not part of our lives we enjoy a drink in the Jolly Roger pub. The pub has always stayed open in the winter, and is a crucial part of community life for a small island.

Lie-ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

My first cup of coffee always tastes the best. I usually have it in bed about seven. Then I feel ready to face the day. I always do some scribbling in my notebooks before I get out of the bed, and this sets me up to work in the studio.

 Painting titled: End of the Day, by Bernadette Burns.
 Painting titled: End of the Day, by Bernadette Burns.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

Working as an artist, there is a lot of blur around weekend/weekdays. I work in my studio most mornings.

If money was no object, where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

Fergus and I love Venice, and I would love to visit it for a weekend with our daughter Róisín and her partner Mike. The light and reflections on the canals are so beautiful, the silence and lack of traffic is unexpected and every corner you turn looks like a film set. The art, food and wine are also wonderful.

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

We are blessed to be living in such a beautiful place, Sherkin has lots of wonderful quiet places to walk and sit and watch the sea.

We start each day with a walk (and sometimes a swim) on Silver Strand. The sea is an ever-changing constant in my life. When life presents difficulties, I always find time beside the sea to be healing.

 Painting called: 1st November 1920 by Bernadette Burns.
 Painting called: 1st November 1920 by Bernadette Burns.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

We really enjoy visits from friends and family, and although Sherkin was possibly one of the best places to be during Covid lockdown, it is wonderful to be able to have family and friends visit us again.

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

Walking and taking note of sea birds and the smaller garden birds. The hedgerows here are always full of life and colour.

During the winter we have a ceramics group who meet in the Community Hall and work together. Fergus and I also both enjoy reading and films.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter do you have a signature dish?

When we are off the island we love to go to the cinema and try new food. I enjoy cooking Greek food for family and friends, in particular moussaka and spinakopitta.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork — where are your go to spots for coffee / lunch / special meal?

We love to eat at North Shore on Sherkin, run by our friends Kathy, Mike and Daniel O’Connor. We don’t visit the city often, but I love to meet friends for lunch at the Crawford Gallery or at Quay Co-op.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

We lead a very quiet life. A nice Sunday evening for me is a good film and a glass of wine.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

I never set an alarm, but usually get up about eight.


Ber’s work is currently part of Sherkin Island’s annual Community Art Exhibition at the Community Hall, which runs until August 23. It is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout that period, from noon until 5.30pm, and will operate to strict Covid-19 guidelines including the use hand sanitisers, face coverings for all visitors and a one-way system in line with social distancing requirements.

Curated by Sherkin Island artist and graduate of the Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork, Jordyn Lynch, the exhibition includes all mediums, including drawings, paintings, writing, sculpture, photography, textiles and ceramics. For ferry times see:

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