‘Disgrace’ was the second exhibition of my work. It was a group show that was held as part of Belfast Pride.
Some of the original ‘NImphomania’ paintings where actually made in response to comments made by various politicians stance on LGBT issues (I just happened to paint Jim Wells a week before he resigned after expressing his antiquated views on the subject ) The figures of Peter Robinson, Jim Wells, Arlene Foster and Edwin Poots are all portrayed as though they are iin a vulnerable state of coitus. The political figures all voted no in response to the same sex marriage motion.
The show is the first time I has presented work In East Belfast. The work only encompassed a small group of the paintings from the NImphomania series, as previously mentioned, those who voted against Gay Marriage. Support for gay marriage in N Ireland can been seen support for modern, liberal and forward thinking NI. East Belfast in particular being predominantly protestant has the largest support for the DUP within the Greater Belfast area. A recent poll in the Belfast showed that those from a Catholic background are more inclined to voice support for gay marriage, with three quarters (75%) compared to 57% of those from a Protestant community background. Politically Sinn Fein the percentage of support shows, (80%), Alliance (79%) and SDLP (61%), compared to 49% of UUP voters and 45% of DUP voters. This presents an uncomfortable implication that protestants are more right wing than catholics. Coming from East Belfast it could be argued that supporter gay marriage is lower for protestants simply because Sinn Fein strongly support it, they don’t get on too well. This certainly would not excuse the poll result however, it potentially would look worse for Unionists/Loyalists. The referendum down South has also had a potential influence on the paranoia from the DUP voting East, a few that by voting for gay marriage we become a step closer to a united Ireland. This may seem like madness to an outsider, and I would agree its a bizarre sounding theory but one that has more truth in it that some would like to think.
The above pictures are of the night of the exhibition,
NI has a troubled and convoluted past, its hard to explain the culture to an outsider, quite simply the country is split into two, Nationalists and Loyalist/Unionists, outside larger towns and cities it is rarer that they will come into contact, they are separated into their own towns, but within cities, especially belfast they live within a much smaller, concentrated area. Old warring tribes are separated by by so called ‘peace walls’, where most modern country have gangs NI has paramilitaries. Although we supposedly live in a post conflict society, the conflict is pretty much non existent, contentious issues still manage to bubble to the surface regarding culture and identity.
An interesting example of this is the issue I had when deciding how to describe this exhibition. The term Northern Ireland is in itself contentious, especially in nationalist/ republican circles. Many people dispute the existence of an independent country and deny the boarder exists preferring to refer to it as the North of Ireland. The North of Ireland is then seen by many loyalist/unionists to be against the sovereignty of UK. It took me a while to canvass opinion asking friends and family (I’m from a mixed catholic and protestant family).
The consensus was that Northern Ireland is perfectly fine to use in reference to where we live, but the term ‘Northern Irish’ in describing nationality is not. So ‘Northern Irish culture’ became ‘the culture of Northern Ireland’. This may seem strange to outsiders, and believe me I agree, its pretty silly to me too. It was integral to have the word Northern Ireland, simply because Im describing the unique culture that happens here but those livinng there certainly do not all identify as ‘Northern Irish’, perhaps just Irish, or British but it is certainly far from accepted unanimously.
The Artists where chosen from a pool of people I have worked with before, Andrew Train is a close friend who I have co curated in previous exhibitions. After meeting with everyone I asked how they felt working within the confines of a theme as it could have really gone either way, with people would have felt creatively stifled at having to keep within the parameters of a theme, or (as I had hoped) people would be excited about having to work towards a common goal. Thankfully everyone was excited about the prospect of dealing with a topic that they felt was in need of reassessing and reexamined in the eyes of a contemporary artist.
Moving forward with the exhibition was much easier knowing we all had a unifying theme and an objective, to create art work on the unique culture of Northern Ireland. Therefore the relationship with each piece of work was stronger by default. When I first suggested the theme I had an idea that satire would play a large part in the exhibition, it was an example rather than a guide but most of the final pieces defiantly did carry with them a strong sense of satire, in line with our sardonic view on what goes on in modern NI
Artist: Andrew Train.
Artist: Aaron Hughes
Artist; Gareth Martin
Artist: Daniel Berry
Studio 11 has been open for 4 years and bills itself as an underground hub for art, film and music. The studio is situated on the fourth floor of a tower block on college green in Belfast city centre shared by Catalyst Arts gallery.
I have complied archived images from past performances. This is to asses how the space has been previously utilised.
Owner Tony Hayes interview.
Film night, art exhibition.
Contemporary Sketchpad, Art exhibition.
Simply Art: Art exhibition
Simply Art 2: Music till late, live Trad.
The main clientele of the studio seem to be younger artists, students and Psytrance fans (due to the space hosting psytrance nights in the past).
On hoisting any event at the studio there are certain groups who can usually be expected, people who frequent multiple shows there, friends of the owner and artists/performers and those who are part of a larger collective linked to shows that ave been on in the studio as well as the studio itself.
One of the aspects that make this space unique is its versatility, as some of the above pictures has shown, it has been utilised in many different roles, it is therefore possible to combine some of these roles. It is becoming more and more common for galleries to also have music, live or a DJ. I really like music in galleries, especially if the work is 2d (obviously doesn’t work too well whilst a performance piece is happening) as it relaxes everyone. Galleries can have an uncomfortable air about them, especially at the beginning before a crowd can build up but music can help to emulate the relaxed atmosphere of a bar or club so I will aim to have live music.
The paintings represent a view of modern Belfast/N Ireland which attempts to be separate from any preconceived religious or sectarian factions. The pieces are intended to be satirical and non political, despite the subject matter being the images of politicians.
The subjects have been taken from their offices, public meetings and press conferences, striped from their public personas and portrayed in an honest and vulnerable state of coitus.
This is really required viewing for those who dont really understand how insane the situation in NI can be. Although many of those interviewed in the video are perhaps a little more ‘extreme’ than most, the opinions are widespread, its so common for Unionists to support Israel simply on the basis that many Nationalists support Palestine, seriously its treated like the supporting of a football team.Talk about projecting your hatred.
The article found on the OCA website deals with artist Charles Ray and his surreal sculptures. Charles come off as having self deprecating nature, his stories of banging his head and loosing this memory are as strange as his creations but he certainty has an interesting style, he moves past the obvious ‘high art’ motives and focuses on what is normal deemed as crass and potentially exploitive. But his isn’t necessarily true, the author mentions the ‘reinvigoration of the audience’ as though they used to the mundane typical bronze and marble sculptures of busts and figures in the Uffizi or the V&A Museum. The artist instead subjects the viewer to these seemingly dysfunctional figures and attempts to create a place for them within a particular space, moreover its to explain their purpose within the space. The artist himself was quoted on the frieze website as saying (http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/the_shape_of_things/) that sculpture is’ actually sequencing form and space’. An elegant statement that perfectly sums up any art work and its connection with the space.
The relationship with space and the work is elaborated further with Rays earlier work ‘Clock man’.
Clock Man was a performance piece by Ray and involved him being placed inside a large clock, only his feet dangling out, the artist then moved the time pieces around in line with his own circadian rhythm. When the show was over he had moved the clock hours forward by three hours more than had actually passed, so was the perceived difference in time experienced by the artist compared to those outside the box. The artist had formed his own space within the gallery, time itself being relative, he mad mimicked the physical existence of the liner nature of time as well. He had placed himself within a physical space moving through time.
As well as the artists utilisation of large spaces the content and context of his work is of relevance to my own work, the manipulation of what the audience expects compared to what they see. My own work plays with the idea of political portraiture, its grandiose and sometimes pompous nature, the contemporary white frames and soft watercolours combined with potentially grotesque and sometimes sensual faces in coitus. the who do you do not expect doing what it is only natural to do. The impeccably maintained personalities, scripted political conversations and statements, all striped away to something so basic yet so unexpected.