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Contemporary Art Practice (MA)

Kiera Burton

Kiera Burton (b. 1993, Ireland) is an artist and educator based in West London. She currently manages a private education service, teaching art to children and adults alongside her artistic practice. In early 2023, Burton delivered a participatory art piece at the Tate Modern celebrating Women's History Month. She holds degrees from the best art universities in the world, including the Royal College of Art and the University of the Arts London.

Burton has over seven years of teaching experience and worked in London's contemporary art industry for four years, where she managed gallery teams and raised over £75K for charity by organising exhibitions and running stands at art fairs. Her artwork has been featured on Montez Press Radio, by the UAL Arts Chaplaincy and at a Tate Modern Late.

A young white woman is standing in front of a stone wall with rose climbers.

Burton’s nomadic upbringing resulted in a home that was not geographically based but found within Christian theology and its church. Through her practice, Burton expands upon the communion she felt within those communities and presents a space of belonging.

Her work explores the lived experience as a Christian woman operating within a strong patriarchal tradition and reimagines the church as an equitable institution. Inspired by folk traditions and religious ceremonies, Burton utilises art forms that have historically been labelled as ‘women’s work’, submissive and pious. Burton explores textiles as a potent tool to reclaim the position of feminist theology in a gentle form of assertion.

Burton has been particularly moved by the writing of Beth Allison Barr, whose book The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth, has reframed how poor translation and manipulation of historical records have resulted in the misrepresentation of women’s roles within Christianity today. Building on existing feminist theology, Burton seeks to position sound and textiles as a site for restoration of spiritual truth.

Drawing on the folk tradition of church kneelers, Burton held several sewing circles in the run-up to her RCA degree show to support her project: The Passing of the Pomegranate Bell. An unsung folk art of England and Wales, church kneelers traditionally depict local concerns and interests, such as plants, wildlife, Biblical stories and local landmarks. Kneelers are cross-stitched by members of a local congregation and then donated to the church to be used during personal prayer. To honour this tradition, the women present at Burton’s sewing circles share the same religion and hold an interest in feminist theology. Together they embroidered each kneeler while partaking in the act of communion. That is, sharing their intimate thoughts and feelings on spiritual matters.

Two woman sewing, sat together on a sofa.
Woman working on an embroidery piece
Embroidery of a pomegranate plant
Embroidery of a pomegranate plant
Looking over someone's shoulder at them sewing
Embroidered hand and pomegranate
Birds eye view of someone sewing
Two woman looking at an embroidery piece
A woman embroidering

Altarpiece was born out of an interest in transforming spaces from the mundane to the sacred. Burton believes that this transcendence can occur when an object placed within a space is imbued with religious meaning by a community or religious group. Throughout Late Medieval Europe, there was a rise in devotional objects which challenged the Christian leaders of the time. It became difficult to challenge the idea of holy matter when Christianity supported the notion that God created the entire world and it could in turn manifest his existence.

Through this project, Burton forms two objects rooted within the Christian tradition - first, a glass pomegranate bell. The bell pays homage to the robes worn by high priests who worshipped within Solomon’s Temple during the Old Testament. Their robes were lined with alternating bells and pomegranate tassels and could only be worn by males. Burton reclaims this fruit, often associated with fertility, as an ecofeminism symbol ripe for restoring high priestesshood. The choice of glass references the fragility of shared belief and the delicate balance needed when navigating religious progression within a patriarchal tradition.

The second object - a green velvet cushion embroidered with pomegranate leaves, makes a gentle reference to the contemporary temple clothing worn by those within the Latter-Day Saint community. These objects strive to connect the traditions of the past with the present. Burton presents Altarpiece as both a relic and a bud for the path of Christianity and what is to come.

A glass pomegranate bell on a green velvet cushion, with leaf embroidery
A glass pomegranate bell
A glass pomegranate bell
Green velvet cushion with pomegranate leaf embroidery
Green velvet cushion with pomegranate leaf embroidery
Green velvet cushion with pomegranate leaf embroidery

Examining the intersection between folk magic and religious practices, Burton explores the history of divining rods and its use in Christian faiths in early 19th century America. She found that the practice dates back to the 15th century and that many incarnations used hold similarities to prayers, referring to early saints, Jesus Christ and the three magi. During Burton’s conservative, Christian upbringing, magic was often demonised, in contrast to canonised scripture that heralds divining rods (i.e. folk magic) as working by the power of God.

The piece, Searching for Spiritual Truth, A Guided Ritual, is a reworking of a 15th century incarnation directed towards a Goddess Mother. Expanding on the Hebrew name of God, Elohim, which means ‘they’; ‘Eloah’ being feminine and ‘im’ masculine. Burton calls on the feminine, our Mother in Heaven and her high priestess power to guide us in our search. This ritual becomes a matriarchal search for spiritual truth rather than for earthly treasures (for which divining rods are traditionally used).


Welcome to your guided ritual.

Where we will be searching for spiritual truth. Drawing on the high priestess power of our divine

Heavenly Mother, through use of the pomegranate. 

Let’s begin with a breathing exercise.  

In through the nose 

and out through the mouth. 

In through the nose 

and out through the mouth. 

And one more time.


and out. 

Now reach out and gently pick up the pomegranate bell,

and ring once to begin the ritual.

In the name of the Mother, we search you. In the name of the Son, we find you. 

In the name of the Earth, we cut you.

A pomegranate shall grow out of an almond tree. 

And the Divine Mother’s power shall arise out of that fruit.

O eternal and omnipotent living Mother of Heaven 

hear us and our longing for truth.

O Mother, creator of heaven and earth 

through your divine incomprehensible, high priestess power 

that you have used since the beginning of the world, 

we ask that you listen to our prayers as we ring this bell 

and reveal the truth that we, your children, desire to learn.

O sacred Mother of eternal wisdom, 

through all the divine power that you used in the firmament of the sun, 

of the name of all the stars and of the eight planets.

Please help us, your children, 

that we shall succeed in this endeavour for truth, 

that we undertake through use of this bell.


Social Tissue is a participatory art piece that was performed at the Tate Modern Late, celebrating Women’s History Month in March 2023.

It is an interactive hand-knitting experience that celebrates a medium historically labelled as 'women's work'. Visitors were invited to learn how to knit and contribute to a growing blanket by using flesh-toned wool that mirrored the organic forms of internal tissue. Through the act of making as a group, we drew on the social tissue of collaboration and communion to create a living piece of art.

Crochet project and instructions
Two woman setting up a knitting project
Two women sat down, winding yarn
People sat around a table hand knitting

Folklorists define myths as sacred oral narratives that typically explain the creation of the world and the activities of the Gods. Through The Passing of the Pomegranate Bell, Burton centres the feminine experience of the well-known Adam and Eve story. Starting with our Goddess Mother, Burton tells of Eve’s spirit conception, her blossoming into spiritual maturity and mastering of high priestesshood before she even steps foot on the Earth. The story then follows her regression to childlike innocence and loss of divine power. We learn of the Mother’s devastation at this loss and the lengths she goes to restore her daughter’s power and equip her for her mortal mission.

The Passing of the Pomegranate Bell is intended to be experienced in conjunction with Altarpiece and a series of church kneelers, which will be shown together at the Royal College of Art 2023 exhibition. This piece was made possible by the support of voice actress Julia Rowley.


Mother Gathers Intelligences

It almost ripped our Mother’s heart out the day Eve’s body was formed in the garden. Mother recalled Eve’s spirit conception. How she scoured the cosmos, searching for those tiny little beings; intelligences. How she spent endless stretches of time listening out for their hungry suckling mouths, travelling light years in a matter of seconds. She only stopped at those who shone like stars, radiating cosmic force. She scooped them up into her arms, cradling them to her chest on her journey back to the celestial realm. Their tiny mouths puckered open, as if to cry. But if you could put an ear to their incorporeal lips, you would hear the whispering of all the secrets of the eternities. The mysteries of the heavens. Treasures that we mere mortals could barely dream of.

As Mother began her voyage home, her thoughts turned to the nursery; a pulsing star in which her beloved intelligences would be laid to rest, awaiting their rebirth as spirit children. For Mother was not yet a mother. The title had yet to be claimed. For during this time, Mother was known as Eloah, the great goddess of the celestial realm. Mother’s kingdom was in its infancy, her glory awaiting further light and truth. She reigned across the milky way, the stars and black holes. A consecrated land awaited her children. Lush foliage and deep seas full of beauty and wonder. So our mother continued her journey, seeking, finding, and gathering those intelligences. Counting down each success as it moved her nearer and nearer the first birth. She clutched the intelligences close and dreamed of the daughters and sons they were going to be. Drawing on her high priestess power, she would transform them into spirit matter. Together with her consort, Im, they would form the spirit children of the Gods.

As she neared the nursery, Mother felt that this crusade would be her last. For in her previous journeys, the intelligences lay sedate and content in her arms. Joy swelled from their beings, aware of the destiny for which Mother had chosen them. Today, however, they bounced, pushing and pulling against her arms, wanting to escape. The closer she travelled, the more intensified their efforts, driving her body forward. Mother could feel their eagerness to cling to the others. As they reached the nursery, a great force of energy radiated through the space between them. She tenderly gazed at the intelligences in her arms and released them. She watched as they glimmered against the cool celestial air and bounded out of her embrace. Matter longing to cling to like matter, impatient for their transformation. As the intelligences, old and new, met, a deep purple light began to glow, and Mother knew that she’d found the final piece. The hairs on her celestial arms stood up as realisation shot through her. It was time to begin the ceremony.

Eve the Beloved

So Mother began. Her children were to be formed of the stars, just like she had been. While they were not yet hers, they had always existed in the cosmos as intelligences - beings of immortality and eternal luminosity. Almost indiscernible to the human eye, they roamed the worlds seeking truth and knowledge, swelling with light, flickering as they sought more ways to grow. Yet, if we could see them, we might describe them as stars littering the skies around us, warming our hearts with joy as we see the beauty of the night. This is Mother’s realm. The feminine balances the masculine. Mother rules the night, and Father rules the day. Together they work in perfect harmony, influencing the Earthly world prepared for their posterity.

Mother knew that her spirit children could not be conceived in an Earthly manner but through a divine ceremony. For all things were to be created in a spiritual form before they could be made mortal. From the blades of grass in the fields, to the grains of sand in the desserts, each had a spirit, both human and nature alike. For all are cherished by Mother. All existed as spirit matter before being made manifest on the Earth.

With all of the intelligences gathered, the ceremony was ready to commence. Mother eagerly sought out her consort, and led him to the nursery. It was time to form their first spirit child. She trembled in anticipation of what was to come. Mother took a quiet moment to collect herself and thought back to her spiritual education. In her mind’s eye, she went through the alchemic steps she was taught by her own Mother. She flipped through the recipe for this divine ceremony, anxious to get it right. She mentally ticked off each element needed; intelligences, stardust and priestess power. She drew the soon-to-be Father near.

Together they blessed and sanctified the intelligences, pouring in their love and high priestess power. The pulsing purple light that had previously begun to emulate from the intelligences started to take shape, slowly materialising as a human form. The light changed from purple to shimmering gold, gradually shining brighter and brighter. As Mother and Father looked on in awe, the light encapsulated their celestial bodies until nothing, but silhouettes could be seen. Mother held out her hand in front of her, marvelling at its light form and clutched the hand of the Father. This was it! The light slowly began to fade, leaving a slight tingling on their skin and a perfected spirit child in front of them.

Mother was ecstatic! Tears ran down her cheeks as she leapt to embrace her first spirit daughter. She was here! Her heart had never felt so complete as she looked at Eve’s face. Mother’s title was rightfully earned. She was, at last, a Mother.

The Garden of Eden

Once birthed, the spirit children were placed in Mother’s heavenly kingdom. A kingdom which had been bestowed to her on that great day, the day when she was transformed from resurrected being to a celestial goddess. For thousands of Earthly years, Mother raised Eve in the mansions of the heavens. Watching as she grew in wisdom and stature. Each day brought a new joy as Eve’s spiritual maturity blossomed. Yet, a sense of dread was slowly creeping in. Mother knew that one day soon, Eve would need to experience life on Earth. Mother could not bear to have Eve be separated from her but knew that it was necessary for Eve to progress towards her own goddesshood one day. While other spirit children had followed Eve’s birth, she was Mother’s most beloved. The one who would be entrusted with the heaviest burden, who would be tried and tested in ways that others could not comprehend. For Eve was to become the Mother of All Living. She was to begin humanity on Earth.

The day came when there was nothing left for Mother to teach Eve. She was ready. By keeping her in the heavens, Mother would only be stunting her progression. Mother tried to hide her pain as she wrapped Eve in her shimmering arms and kissed her cheeks. Eve’s face was full of childlike excitement and nerves as they neared the veil - the portal between worlds. Woven by Mother’s own hands, the veil was formed of iridescence spirit matter. Representing the collision of spirit-matter and Earthly matter, for while Mother could see through the veil, down to the Earth. Once Eve passed through, she would not see her Mother again until her mortal death. She would forget her pre-Earth life, the mansions in the heavens, and, worse of all, her Mother.

Eve, while holding Mother’s hand, tentatively stepped through the veil. The matter fluttered at her touch, parting as gently as a curtain in the summer breeze. Eve peeled back its edges and gasped at the bountiful garden her Mother had prepared. Flowers of every colour, all blooming at once, defying the cyclical notion of seasons. Bluebells, snowdrops and holly grew side by side. Fruit and vegetables of all varieties, plump and ready to pick. Lions and sheep lay together in peaceful harmony. Eve was enthralled, and it was at that moment that her fingers slipped through her Mother’s palm, leaving a ghost of a trace of her presence.

Planting the Pomegranate Bell

Mother had never known a pain like it. She could not bear to have her beloved daughter torn from her side and placed in a garden a dimension away. Mother fled to the farthest corners of the heavens to weep. She longed for Eve’s warm embrace, her twinkling laugh and her quick wit. Even time worked differently in the garden; a thousand Earth days for one in heaven. As time passed, the pain gently subsided. The clock ticking and ticking, bringing Eve closer to home. Mother finally felt able to take a peek. To watch over her daughter as she played among the leaves, buried her face in a sheep’s coat and enjoyed the bounty of the garden as it spontaneously brought forth beauty and nourishment. Yet Eve was not going to die and be able to return to the celestial realm. For death did not yet exist on Earth. Just pure childhood bliss.

Eve must fall to transform the Earth into its temporal state. To allow death and sickness into the world but also joy, learning and prosperity. Without the fall, Eve would be eternally held in the garden, stuck in a state of childlike innocence and knowledge. As earthly days turned to weeks, to months and then to years, Mother noticed that Eve was different. It wasn’t just her childlike regression, but something was missing. Her spiritual maturity, the divine priestess power that she had spent aeons mastering in the heavens, had been stripped away from her.

The high priestess power had been passed from mother to daughter for generations. Without it, the balance between the heavens and the temporal realm would be thrown into disarray. This power would enable Eve to call upon the ministering of angels and to commune with her Mother and Father in times of need. For Eve had been ordained from before the world was to become the Mother of All Living, to be a steward over the earth and preach to humanity, so that all may return to heaven. Without her high priestess power, Eve will feel utterly alone. Perplexed at how this could have happened, Mother considered Eve’s pilgrimage from heaven to Earth. The passing through the veil. For it had been woven by her own hand. Did she make a mistake? Was there some missing alchemy that could have prevented the power from passing through? And more importantly, how could it be rectified?

As Mother paced the garden of the heavens, trying to find a solution, the dew on a Hydrangea caught her eye. The deep purple and red cast her mind back to the most sacred of all fruit; the pomegranate. Heralded for its religious symbolism, Mother knew that she had found the key to restoring Eve’s high priestess power. Within the garden, there was a sacred place where the veil was thin. The thin place was a vital component of the garden, for this was where the spirits of the plants grew before they were ready to be passed through the veil and come to Earth. A home for the spirits of the vegetal world. The garden was a site of transcendence, a perfect location for the gift that Mother wanted to restore for her daughter.

And so, Mother set to work, searching the garden for the perfect spot. She cleared weeds, tilled the soil and sprinkled it with the essence of her own power before gently placing a seedling in the ground. Each day she returned to the garden, watching the branches twist skyward, its roots spread, reaching out like tentacles, plunging into the ground. As the tree began to bring forth fruit, each sphere entered the spirit realm with a gentle pop. The tree grew stronger and stronger until it was time for Mother to pluck the ripest fruit from its branches.

The Passing of the Pomegranate Bell

As the day of passing drew nearer, Mother’s excitement could not be contained. For she would have the chance to communicate directly with Eve! It felt as though a lifetime had passed since she had looked into her eyes, and Eve looked back. The veil had felt like an unbearable barrier between them. In preparation, Mother had begun to fashion the pomegranate into a bell. She plucked the strongest branches and braided them. An incantation gently fell from her lips as she worked. At the end of her labours, she formed the central core, a pendulum that, when rung, would restore the divine power of the holder.

With the bell cradled gently in her hands, she travelled to the spot in the garden where the veil was at its most translucent. She could see the form of Eve just there, on the other side, her Earthly form glimmering through the substance of the veil. Mother called out, at first, just a whisper.

‘Eve, my beloved.’

Eve turned her head, her face complexed, for who in the garden knew her name? An unspoken treasure of another life. She was fed and loved by the gentle rush of the breeze, and the plants that cradled her head at night and found solace among the benevolent animals. But never could she recollect ever hearing another call her name. The name, ‘Eve’, resonated deep down, awakening a soft stirring in her soul, and she knew that the name belonged to her. Mother smiled as a soft expression of recognition spread across her daughter's face.

‘Who are you?’ she uttered, facing in the direction of Mother. For Eve could not fully see her, but a fractured form began to emerge at the edges of the veil. An imprint between worlds.

‘Your Mother. We have spent many an aeon together, before the world was. We sang and danced in our mansion in the heavens. I have taught you the secrets of the universe and the alchemy of the high priestesshood.

But, oh, my daughter. A veil has been placed over your eyes, causing you to forget. We have been separated for your growth and prosperity. That you, too, may one day be a goddess. But in that journey between realms, something was lost, and now, I have prepared a way before you, that your priestess power might be restored.

I implore you to reach out your hand and receive this gift that I wish to endow upon you. That when you shall ring this bell, the Earth shall change, and you shall be one step closer to returning into my arms. Back to your home in the heavens.’

Eve’s eyes widened as she listened to her Mother. Could it be? The fractured form began to change, and a shimmering object slowly began to appear. Eve could just about make the silhouette of a… fruit? As it passed through the veil, the bell transformed. For spirit matter cannot survive in the mortal realm alone, but has to take on a new form. Permeated with the love of Mother, and without a temple of flesh, the bell turned from organic spirit matter to that of Earthly glass. Eve reached out and gently enclosed her hands around the bell. For just a moment, the veil was taken from off her eyes, and she saw the hands of Mother. She gasped at this vision. For now, she knew with a surety that what had been spoken was true.

The Restoration of the High Priestess

The weight of the bell hung heavy in Eve’s hands. What was she about to unleash? Questions flooded her mind. She opened her mouth as if to speak. But as she lifted her head, the vision before her had vanished. Her Mother could no longer be seen. Eve was, yet again, alone in the Garden of Eden, but now, with an unforeseen choice to make.

The bell glistened in the moonlight as Eve struggled to sleep that night. It was strange, but at night, she felt closer to Mother. She prayed that one day soon, she would be able to commune with her again. Eve contemplated the choice, turning the conversation over and over again in her mind. For all would change, Mother had said. Not just for Eve, but the whole Earth. How would ringing the bell impact her dear animals and the intricate network of plants? For in ringing the bell, she would no longer be able to stay in paradise.

Time passed as Mother waited anxiously in the heavens. She watched as Eve tenderly reached out and took hold of the bell. With her eyes closed, head tilted towards the heavens, Eve held her breath and began to sway. The pendulum of the bell swung from side to side. A gentle peal broke the silence of the night. Eve gasped as light coursed through her, power bleeding into every pore. And at that moment, the Earth shifted beneath her feet. Jolting her, as if it was falling from a great height. A clap of thunder sounded as hot summer rain began to pour. Eve smiled. It was the start of a new beginning.