A3: Artists on NI

Because my work is currently focusing on socio-political themes, albeit in an irreverent fashion, in Northern Ireland It is important to look at how contemporary artists are depicting a similar subject matter.

The first artist I will look at is Lorcan Vallely. Vallely is a graduate of Bath School of Art but hails from Northern Ireland.

Through his use of reaproppriating archival photographs, I instantly saw parallels with his work and my own. Vallely displays his images in as in film noir style with heightened contrast so as to more clearly separate blacks and whites; this is combined with muted colours, similar to film colorisation. The inclusion of the film colourisation effect is reminiscent to the films Sin City and the famous ‘girl with the red coat’ scene from Schindler’s List.

It is this embrace of the combination of photograph film and paint that bares the most striking similarity to my own work, the artist embraces the distinction between each media. The paintings are not painted to ignore the photographic source, to repaint the subject matter as though doing so from real life but to directly represent the photographic qualities with chalk and acrylic.

Valley L, Young Girl in Belfast

The subjects of Vallely’s paintings are mostly based in NI, signs of conflict are not seen directly but at times are insinuated like the picture Young Girl in Belfast. This picture in particular draws a striking resemblance to the aforementioned scene in Schindlers list. It is clearly an image of Belfast’s conflict period, judging from the clothes any time between the 60’s and 80’s the height of the troubles.


The artists reluctance to directly represent the troubles enables him to present the people of Northern Ireland through images of street performers ‘The whistle playerand ‘The Wren Boysshow a part of Northern Ireland unseen by many, a part that is sadly disappearing in the path to modernity.


Vallely’s work currently has a place hanging on the walls of Belfast’s John Hewitt bar. The bar, named after poet John Harold Hewitt is considered a creative and cultural hub due to its position near newspaper owned buildings and the city’s art college making it a popular meeting place for students, artists, writers and journalists. The work shown is a combination of his depictions of NI alongside newer, more political themed pieces regarding the the Israel / Palestine conflict and paintings about the American Labour Movement.

This is an example of the importance of the venue/surroundings in which artwork is displayed. The Artists work is shown to an audience who have either lived through some of the scenes depicted like the NI paintings, have wrote about the story’s and atrocities or have simply sat down to discuss the same conflicts over a drink with friends or associates.

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