Portrait of Northern Ireland art exhibition opens in Belfast

Minister of State Conor Burns has today (Tuesday 12 October) formally opened a major Belfast Art Exhibition showcasing over 100 pieces of art, featuring the people and places that have defined Northern Ireland over the past 100 years.

The ‘Portrait of Northern Ireland - Neither an Elegy nor a Manifesto’ Exhibition, supported by the Northern Ireland Office as part of its Centenary programme, will be open to the public until 4 November at Belfast’s Golden Thread Gallery.

Showcasing art from the 1920s to the present day, the exhibition demonstrates the diversity and quality of Northern Ireland art and represents artists’ responses to our geographical, social and political landscape.

Taking its subtitle from curator John Hewitt’s poem neither an elegy nor a manifesto, this exhibition is neither a lament for nor a celebration of Northern Ireland. Instead, it shows how the artists who were born or have worked in this part of the world have responded to the particular and universal experience of the people who live here. The exhibition demonstrates how visual representations of the narratives of Northern Ireland can alter our own perceptions of the landscape and of ourselves.

Visitors will be able to view an extraordinary array of works by artists including Paul Henry, William Scott, Joy Gerrard, Willie Doherty and Susan McWilliams, with Turner Prize nominees included alongside emerging artists from Belfast School of Art. Many of the works in the show have not been available for public view for many years.

In addition to nurturing emerging local talent and providing a platform to showcase local artists’ skills, it is hoped that the exhibition will support the local arts sector as it deals with the impact of Covid 19.

Opening the exhibition, Minister Burns said:

“I’m thrilled that Belfast will play host to this amazing collection of art, which displays the breadth of talent of Northern Ireland artists right across generations as part of our Centenary programme.

“The Portrait of Northern Ireland art exhibition is such an important initiative, particularly for emerging artists seeking to establish themselves on the cultural scene.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for the public to see the very best of Northern Ireland art, and I would encourage everyone to visit the exhibition over the next few weeks to support the artists and view the range of artwork on offer.”

Curated by Shan McAnena, the Portrait of Northern Ireland exhibition is a collaboration between the Northern Ireland Office, the Government Art Collection, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Ulster University Belfast School of Art as part of the wider cultural programme of the Northern Ireland Centenary.

An expert panel of representatives from these organisations and many of the leading Northern Ireland galleries, has ensured that the exhibition features an inclusive and varied range of artwork and exhibits.

Welcoming the opening of the exhibition to the public, Curator Shan McAnena said:

“It has been a privilege to bring together these beautiful and profound works and acknowledge the contribution of many of the key artists who have emerged from this part of the world over the past 100 years.

"The works in the exhibition give a sense of the development of fine art practice here since the 1920s and capture artists’ responses to the landscape and experience, both particular and universal, of the people who have lived in this place and who continue to make Northern Ireland their home.”

Head of Belfast School of Art Louise O’Boyle said:

“This exhibition is a great introduction to artworks created in Northern Ireland past and present.”

"Indeed, the emerging artists’ work from Belfast School of Art graduates on show demonstrates just how vibrant and intriguing the current contemporary art scene is here.

"Local, but very much with national and global impact and reach!”

The exhibition opens to the public at the Golden Thread Gallery from 2pm on Tuesday 12th October, running until Thursday 4th November, with late opening on the final evening for Late-Night Art Belfast.

The Golden Thread Gallery is open Tuesday to Fridays 11.00-17.00 and Saturdays 11.00-16.00. Admission is free and booking is not required, however the Gallery has a maximum capacity of 80 visitors at one time. For full details of how to plan your visit and get to the gallery, please go to  https://www.goldenthreadgallery.co.uk/visit-us

The NIO has launched the new Portrait of Northern Ireland website, which showcases the artwork from the exhibition. Visit www.portraitofnorthernireland.co.uk to view.

Curated by Shan McAnena

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