International Ireland

Ulster Museum, Belfast, 10 February – 3 September 2017

There’s an implicit understanding of the museum’s finite resources and loaded remit when viewing a permanent collection show. The limited pool from which these exhibitions are curated often leads to a loose circle being drawn around the works, its content used to simultaneously demonstrate and educate. It becomes a balance of signposting and illustrating, where singular artworks are laden with significance, denoting the development of an artist’s full career or even those of their peers. When seen repeatedly in different configurations, pieces can easily be experienced as historical artefacts rather than artworks.

The spectrum of contact an audience will have with a permanent collection is huge, yet heightened exposure to works does no favours for broad exhibition making. The influence of international art and modernism on Irish work is such an all-encompassing premise that I struggled to experience this exhibition distinctly from past and even surrounding shows. If previously unseen by a viewer, it would still be difficult for 31 works to ‘fulfil’ the vast reach of the exhibition’s title. Instead they become like stills representative of an unknown, feature-length film: not demonstrative but signalling something that could be more thoroughly explored, should you be so inclined. Continue reading “International Ireland”

Snake

Clare Strand, Belfast Exposed, 28 April – 17 June

In ‘Snake’ the image is an interloper. At first unwelcome, it is nonetheless invited into the artist’s life for the long term. Clare Strand’s repulsion with the animal has compelled her to collect snake imagery since childhood, from scrapbooking serpentine forms in the loosest sense, to collecting more specific images – half glamour, half family-album-style photographs – of women who hold and love them.

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Creative Peninsula

Ards Arts Centre, 5 – 14 August

‘Creative Peninsula’ doesn’t operate like a curated exhibition because it isn’t one. It bears mentioning yet seems obtuse to point out, given that exhibition making isn’t really what this collection of work is about. ‘Creative Peninsula’ is a yearly presentation by Ards and North Down local authority, the premise of which is simply to showcase artists and makers within the area. As a result, the work within it is hugely diverse in focus, media and rigour. However, as is often seen in similar wide reaching events – studio collective exhibitions, for example, or final-year student presentations – grouping practices solely on shared geography is not enough to make something more than the sum of its parts. Thus ‘Creative Peninsula’ is more a disjointed collection of solo voices than a cohesive exhibition.

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Kathryn Elkin/Trees Prosper & Len Graham

Kathryn Elkin and Seamus Harahan, CCA, Derry,
10 October–28 November 2015

CCA’s latest show explores the temporary nature of exhibition alongside residual cultural processes. It activates the build-up to an opening performance, or the post-processing of creative method, and the legacy left by those actions. The first collaboration is founded in Irish folk music. Artist Seamus Harahan formed the group ‘Trees Prosper’ with Patrick Morgan, Christina Anna Morgan and Sara J. Barry, who, in this venture, collaborated with established traditional singer Len Graham. The musicians worked toward the opening-night performance Along the Faughan Side, and their chairs remain in an arc in the space as a part of the recorded and exhibited rehearsal process.

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