The political divisiveness and intransigence in Northern Ireland does not transfer to Belfast’s thriving and progressive arts scene. The diversity of work found in the city’s galleries reveal much broader social, political, and cultural interests than what occurs at Stormont. Sophisticated, experimental and forward thinking, the Belfast arts scene has global scope.
The physical proximity of studios, artist-led spaces, the art college, and public galleries of international repute such as The Mac and The Golden Thread Gallery, makes the city centre itself a cultural hub.
There are strong ties to Belfast School of Art, with regular student exhibitions featuring in artist-led spaces around the city, with talks, workshops and educational outreach programmes extending into the wider community.
Late Night Art, on the first Thursday of every month, is a cultural staple. Remaining open until 9pm, many galleries orientate their exhibition programmes around this date.
Erin Hagan and Rachel Rankin, Platform Arts
The verbs of Richard Serra present themselves in the face of Erin Hagan’s extraordinary use of construction materials in Platform’s gallery 1. With emphasis on process and chance outcomes, huge amounts of PVA have been poured onto the ground, peeled off, painted and suspended over steel armatures. These visceral and tactile sheets are a compellingly physical presence alongside an arrangement of finely produced angular steel constructions that jut upwards to pierce the air.
In gallery 2, Rachel Rankin, the winner of Platform Arts Graduate Residency Award, presents a wide array of work at the end of this studio period. ‘Making Scenes’ consists of short videos, objects, handwritten texts and performance presented in half-light. Reflecting upon a personal history, a series of distinct, witty, clever, poetic and poignant narratively constructed vignettes has emerged. The various elements conjure an evocation of the domestic and familial past, growing pains and the loss of childhood, compressed within such a small space that it feels like stepping inside the artist’s head.
Until 25 March 2017, 1 Queen Street, Belfast, BT1 6EA.
Go Girl Collective, QSS Gallery
‘Trauma and Triump’ is an exhibition by the Go Girl Collective. A misnomer, this 200+ group includes boys and functions as an inclusive networking resource for creatives across Northern Ireland. With exhibitions forming only one small part of its output, this, the collective’s second show in the city in six months, cuts through the rigour of so much contemporary practice by breezily utilising the exhibition format as a showcase for their diverse talents.
Until 9 March 2017, 31-33 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7EJ.
Adrian O’Connell, The Engine Room Gallery
Adrian O’Connell examines surveillance-heavy society in ‘Interstice’, an exhibition of his impressive paintings. Through heavy impasto, dense matrixes of lines and forms coalesce across huge canvases. Fluid, fragmentary and visually dense, intense monochromatic forms abut blocks of colour that function as tonal levellers. Conjuring aerial cityscapes and fantastically overwrought circuit boards, the complexity of surface suggests the social tensions created by evolving technology, at the same time betraying the gulf between an omnipotent ‘Big Brother’ presence and the low definition ambiguity that CCTV recordings so often assume.
Until 1 April 2017, Engine Room Gallery, 17a Clarence Street, Belfast, BT2 8DY.
Belfast Artists Paper Society, Pollen
A studio group with a gallery space that is only utilised for Late Night Art, Pollen‘s exhibitions last the duration of the opening. This presents a cruel reality for artists, not least that opening nights might be the only time visitors attend galleries. This month saw BAPS (Belfast Artists Paper Society) bite the bullet. Jayne Cherry, Sue Cathcart and Susan McKeever have gathered with a common interest in using paper in their practice. Tongue firmly in cheek, the ‘analogue cat’ returns alongside a string of other satirical swipes at popular culture in the form of collages, doodles and assemblage. Blink and you’ll miss it.
37-39 Queen Street, Belfast, BT1 6EA.
Jasmin Ka, PS2
Recent Belfast School of Art BA graduate Jasmin Ka dons a metaphoric white coat for her quasi-scientific explorations of sound ecology in relation to the growth of mushrooms. Treating artificially induced organic matter as sculptural material, the juncture between the contrivance of artistic creation and laboratory experimentation is brought to the fore in otherworldly forms, at once curious, beautiful and terrifying.
Until 25 March 2017, 11 North Street, Belfast, BT1 1NA.
1. Aimee Harkin, installation view, ‘Trauma and Triump’, Go Girl Collective exhibition, QSS Gallery, Belfast. Photo: Damian Magee
2. Rachel Rankin, installation view, ‘Making Scenes’ exhibition, Platform Arts, Belfast. Photo: Damian Magee
3. ‘Trauma and Triumph’, Go Girl Collective exhibition, QSS Gallery, Belfast. Photo: Damian Magee
4. Belfast Artists Paper Society (Jayne Cherry, Sue Cathcar, Susan McKeever), installation view, Pollen, Belfast. Photo: Damian Magee
5. Adrian O’Connell, ‘Interstice’, installation view, The Engine Room Gallery, Belfast. Photo: Damian Magee