News 1987

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Contrasts: Works on Paper by Seven Artists from Northern Ireland

Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong

9 May – 30 May 1987

Carrying the Crown, silver gelatin print, toner and gouache, 58cms x 58cms, 1986. from Drumming Series © Victor Sloan

In recent years art in Northern Ireland has been flourishing. There is an eagerness to compete and a growing assuredness and self esteem among our young artists. There have also been greater opportunities to take part in exhibitions travelling abroad while more and more critical attention is being paid to developments and related issues within the visual arts. As a result Lucy Lippard, the distinguished New York critic could comment, “Overtly political or not, Northern Irish Art seems particularly vigorous…” (Catalogue essay “Divisions, Crossroads, Turns of Mind: Some New Irish Art, Ireland American Arts Exchange Inc., 1985.)

Until recently landscape was a constant, perhaps dominant theme. And there has always been an easy and honest relationship between painter and poet, particularly in the north of Ireland. The stylistic source for much of this lyrical approach to landscape painting lies in the romantic expressionism of J.B. Yeats.

Diarmuid Delargy plays out of and with this tradition. His work is mythical, literary and in the spirit of some contemporary Irish poetry. It is his wit, subtle use of the Irish painterly tradition that endears his work to an Irish eye. His sense of place historical; his identity deep-rooted.

If Delargy is concerned with a sense of place – a landscape of unrest, then Chris Wilson is concerned more with territory and boundary. A place name, a location van be dangerous in Belfast, maps have tribal settings. Light pours into his empty interiors and projects a harsh geometry of straight lines – mapping out the cultural imagination.

In Roy Johnston’s drawings geometry, too, is a central concern. He is the oldest member of the exhibition group - a teacher who has perhaps responded to developments in the drawings of his students. A once committed ‘systems’ artist Johnston’s work now is much more gestural, his line softened and less certain.

Gestural marks and worked-in colour subvert and extend the nature of a photographic experience in the work of Victor Sloan. In his series ‘Drumming’ he takes a regular occurrence, an annual event (the 12th July marches) and as the title suggests drums it beyond myth: the gestural marks freeze the still photograph into a silence that echoes far beyond the day’s event.

“Rag Trade” sees Anne Carlisle’s work moving to consider certain social issues at a more conceptual level. It is a natural tendency in an artist/critic who as an editor of “Circa” magazine is concerned with stimulating ideas and debate. Her work can range from simple but sophisticated drawings of everyday objects or city views from a studio window through to more heavily loaded political foraging.

By contrast Phyllis Mahon, who lives in London now, deals ion the realm of imagination: often to strike a spiritual embrace – an erotic placing of hands. Both Phyllis Mahon and John Kindness work with pastel on paper.

John Kindness uses a comic style narrative to satirize and explore certain aspects of the Northern Irish conflict. He mocks, usually in full colour and with a savage humour, the political ‘activists’ of our present problems.

By no means all art being produced in the province is political in nature and not all participants in this exhibition are directly concerned in their work with politics. It is, however, fair to say that a younger group of artists in Northern Ireland are more sensitive to political and social issues than their immediate predecessors. The political landscape of fact has replaced the former landscape of myth. There has been an intellectual shift away from a pastoral lyricism.

That is at least one contrast at work in this exhibition. There are other discernable contrasts in the variety of work being produced within Northern Ireland today. This exhibition of “Works on Paper” will allow viewers an opportunity to sample something of that contrast in what will be the first showing of art from Northern Ireland in Hong Kong

Contrasts is curated by Liam Kelly

University Museum and Art Gallery
The University of Hong Kong
94 Bonham Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

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Athena Art Awards

The Barbican, London, England

11 February – 8 March 1987

Monday – Saturday, 11 – 8, Sunday 12 - 8

Walking II, silver gelatin print, toner and gouache, 58cms x 58cms, 1986. © Victor Sloan

One hundred and fifty seven artists are exhibiting in the Athena Art Awards at the Barbican, London from 11 February – 8 March 1987. They include: John Atkin, Conrad Atkinson, Basil Beattie, Stephen Buckley, Patrick Caulfield, Graham Crowley, Stephen Farthing, Adam Gray, Maggi Hambling, Patrick Heron, John Hoyland, Albert Irvin, Allen Jones, John Keane, Eileen Lawrence, Jock McFadyen, Alan Miller, Martin Naylor, Lawrence Preece, Barbara Rae, Pam Skelton, Victor Sloan, Joe Tilson and Peter Unsworth.

The Nominations Awards Panel is: Peter Davis, Visual Arts Officer, Northern Arts; John Hoole, Curator, Barbican Art Gallery; John McEwen, Critic; Antonia Payne, Director, Icon Gallery and Brian Robinson, Critic and Exhibition Organiser.

The Administrative Committee is: The Right Hon Lord Annan OBE, Chairman, Athena Awards Administrative Committee; Mrs Caryl Hubbard, Chairman, The Contemporary Art Society; Professor Michael Jaffé, Director, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Mr Terry Maher, Chairman and Chief Executive, Pentos PLC; The Right Hon Lord Rayne, Chairman, National Theatre Board, Founder Patron, The Rayne Foundation; Miss Bridget Riley CBE, Artist; The Right Hon Norman St John Stevas MP, Chairman, Royal Fine Art Commission; Mr Jocelyn Stevens, Rector and Vice-President, The Royal College of Art and The Lady Vaisey, Art Critic, The Sunday Times.

Barbican Centre
Silk Street
London EC2Y 8DS
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Directions Out

Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland.

25 March-2 May 1987

Walk IV, Lurgan, silver gelatin print, toners and watercolours, 45.5cms x 45.5cms, 1985 ©Victor Sloan

Work by artists from Northern Ireland is seen sporadically in Dublin in both group exhibitions and one man shows. Directions Out aims, for the first time, to present a focus on work produced there specifically in the period since 1969.

In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Brian McAvera argues that seventeen years of what is “quaintly” called “The Troubles” has ensured that the life experience of artists in the North, especially of those generations whose formative years coincide with the post-1969 period, is markedly different from their Southern confreres.

Much contemporary Northern art absorbs this experience, almost by osmosis. Artists create a layered but oblique response to political, social and religious concerns. They eschew the simplicities of media reportage, ignore the black and white of agit prop and seek to reflect - and reflect on - the Northern experience.

This exhibition aims to explore that response by focusing on work in a variety of media-painting, sculpture, photography, print-and includes Diamuid Delargy, Fergus Delargy, Willie Doherty, Graham Gingles, Gerry Gleason, John Kindness, Colin McGookin, Liam Magee, Locky Morris, Dermot Seymour, Victor Sloan, Chris Wilson.

The exhibition is not synoptic, though the essay by Brian McAvera seeks to place these artists within a broad context of current Northern work.

The presentation of this exhibition in Dublin has been assisted by the British Council.

The Douglas Hyde Gallery

Trinity College, Dublin 2I, Ireland
( t ) + 353 1 608 1116
( f ) + 353 1 670 8330
( e )

The Arts Council supports the Douglas Hyde Gallery

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