A Sense of Place / Fragmented Realities

Ards Arts Centre, Newtownards, 1 – 24 February 2018

A series of black and white digital photographs by Belfast-based artist, Mariusz Smiejek, was presented in the Georgian Gallery in Ards Arts Centre. The small-scale photographs depicted women within the natural and domestic landscapes of the Ards Peninsula. Strong tonal contrasts played a part in some of these images, whereas others had a softer tonal range. The depth of field also varied; sometimes Smiejek concentrated solely on the subject, while at other times the background was also depicted in detail. The artist explained: “I focus on the person rather than their surroundings, capturing the person rather than things”. That said, the objects surrounding the women also seemed to have life resonance. Most of the photographs intimately narrated the women’s facial expressions but a few also conveyed their physicality, stance and their attitudes towards the camera, with some seeming more self-conscious than others. Yet my favourite photographs captured a sense of energy, such as wind tugging at women’s hair. Somehow, this elemental force brought a youthfulness and honesty to the women’s smiles. Smiejek stated that “it takes time to become part of the person’s life… I like to spend as many hours or days as possible”, suggesting that, ideally, projects need to be quite durational. Continue reading “A Sense of Place / Fragmented Realities”

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.

Continue reading “Creative Peninsula”