Through Our Eyes: Belfast / New York (2006)
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Jack Pakenham is interesting in juxtaposition to artist Sandi Slone for whom science fiction eventually determine reality. Among Slone’s worlds of transparent layers are buildings that traject like missiles and theatrical tableaux’s of aliens that are photo-transferred onto the painting. In her mixed-media works, science mirrors science fiction. Slone maps a world where the fractal quality of the evolved terrain meets the random throw of the dice of history. Einstein assured us God wouldn’t “play dice with our universe?”

Without imagery Edward Shalala’s work is its unembellished manufacture. Drawing, painting is the transformation from canvas to paper. This “de fabrication” or materialization contains a kinetic potential that also articulates creative processing. It is a mode of thinking culled from the surrounding culture and applied to end game painting. “These works refer to the transformative power in art and also to recycling and ecology.”

Artery w/ Royce Harper
Belfast TV 2006
Through Our Eyes: New York (in Belfast)

Animal imagery used as metaphor is exampled by the work of Adele Pound. Like Ima Pico, her work questions notions of transplantation, relocation and what it is to swim in unknown waters, a very small fish, in not so big a pond. From a neutral position, she surveys the waters, noting territorial markers, symbols of belonging, the bottom feeders.

Ruth McCullough is a mixed media artist whose recent work incorporates “dreamscapes” and architectural confections. Castles and images from American movies evoke our earliest childhood sensations, being on the outside and dreaming. The work uses feelings of isolation, mixed with everyday and foreign experiences. McCullough explores this dynamic through touch, smell and taste that control our entry into a new, unexplored world.

In Maura Sheehan’s Night Flight silhouettes of birds in flight install themselves within the confines of architecture. Birds migrate across the room in dizzying optical poetry. This installation has been compared to stop motion photography of Muybridge and to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The architectural wall becomes the great divide between inside and outside, body and shadow, life and death. Seen as the birds see, on which side are we?

Emma Connolly depicts a hotel carpet. Nothing could seem more mundane, yet when it is known that the carpet is from the Europa Hotel Belfast, and that it is one of the most bombed hotels in the world, the carpet assumes new meaning. Added to this is the pattern on the carpet, Lascaux-like scenes of beast hunting, mauling and chasing each other. The artists depiction of empty chairs placed near the top of the composition becomes a metaphor not just for those unable to take their seats (because they are no longer with us), but also perhaps for the untaken seats at the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Ray Duncan considers our sense of self, the face we present to the world, through the medium of portraiture, and has depicted people who have suffered severe facial damage through Troubles related injury. His painting I Love shows a girls face through a plastic mask, worn as part of the healing process, the face having been rendered unrecognizable by the 1998 Omagh bomb.

Beginning on September 11, 2001, Mimi Gross unable to sleep, walked over to Ground Zero three blocks away. Night after night she made a series of ink drawings directly observing the activity of Ground Zero, getting to know policemen, firemen, and volunteer workers. Her drawings capture the humanity amidst the horror. Some of these Days includes the poetry of Charles Bernstein, independently written in response to the events of 9/11.

Jennifer Trouton has examined Northern Irish history with an acute perception and realism. Her paintings evoke the sense of emptiness and stillness found in abandoned houses, where utensils remain to rust and fireplaces, once the warm focal points of rooms are unlit and unattended. This is melded with personal legacy where heirlooms and ornaments are rendered exactingly. Painting on top of old wallpaper fragments, these images again become part of the fabric where memories were formed.

Before 9/11 there were no buildings in Mark O’Grady’s work. After 9/11 O’Grady indicates the ghost of buildings through geometric abstraction. The tool of the artist comes up against the hard and finite two-dimensional plane. O’Grady speaks to us through the engagement of his surface boundary. With its internal lines a building is like a body, which experiences life and loss, back and forth.

The human body daubed and coloured in a tribal way, echoes ancient rituals from Aboriginals to the Celts. The human body therefore is not only as an aesthetic surface in itself, but also a container for forces of energy.

Katy Martin’s prints confute inside with outside, container and contentn act and imprint, multiplicity and singularity. “I work in a world where race is really important and I work painting my skin.” A painted body rolls across a wall, it is in black and white. What we are and what we’re made is told in paint

Ima Pico’s digital images manipulate the female form. Often the women are covered in signs and symbols, part of the artist’s private vocabulary which speaks about personal position, and cultural identity in the face of relocation to unfamiliar ground. Finding oneself living in a country with a complex socio-historic background, with ambiguities and nuances difficult for natives even to understand, has profound implications for ones identity.

Jo Wood-Brown’s work is a collaborative conversation between two existences. Her live and painted imagery moves back and forth from the world of the imagination to the real world and repositions the boundaries. The painting Audience 4 Ort, #2 and the multi media work Free Speech that incorporates saxophone phrases, are about responsiveness and association. Her work simultaneously listens and hears and comes to fully realize both the piece and the audience’s engagement with it.

Untitled (Dream) locates us somewhere in the purposeful disorientation of its process and in the photographic hyperclarity. Gwenn Thomas’ fabric collages transition to digital photos and transition again onto photosensitized artists canvas; pieces of history that make their way into the present and the future. These swatches of material are private memorials that are here and then gone. Thomas’ pigment prints blur the boundaries of medium as Wood-Brown does between the imagination and the physical world.

Peter Richards has made extensive use of the pin hole camera to document his debate surrounding the question “ what is a photograph, what is a performance’, given that in much of his work, the audience are located within the camera. Titanic is made up of positive and negative exposures that enable the interpreted and the interpretation to fuse as a single entity. The photograph combines two ideas, that of the memorial and that of the Titanic collision. Richards has explored the nature of public memorials in Belfast and how they express choices made between what will be forgotten of history and what will be remembered. The Titanic, built in the shipyards of Belfast is a shared symbol of disaster.

After 9/11 April Vollmer began to think about the defacement of memory and personal history. In Thinking of You arm bones form a temple-like structure around the skulls of ancestors. Like a Tibetan Thanka the infinite heads project into the past as well as the future. They lie on virulent green leaves. Vollmer’s digital and virtual thinking visually expresses the transformation of culture from one adaptation to the next.

Bill Brand uses his body as a projection screen, an innovative way of joining his person with his history. Suite explores Brand’s family’s history of kidney disease in tangential symmetry with outside events. The film and the artist are treated in ways that include both Eastern and Western ideology. In Moxibuxton a filmstrip is acupunctured. Light apertures intermingle with the artist treatment and through these holes we also see passages of the surrounding Maine landscape. We see as if the camera were embodied from the inside looking out.

In Through Our Eyes: Belfast/New York, we see cross connections, similarities and differences. There is a first time visitor to New York and the first time visitor to Belfast. In New York, via popular culture, TV and Film, one experiences sense of familiarity albeit clichéd: for example yellow taxis, skyscrapers, etc. In Belfast, the visitor is surprised with the normalcy of everyday life as opposed to media images of Belfast.
One learns to move into new territories of awareness, more places of connection.

We can group and regroup these artists and with each grouping find new meanings. There is journey in much of the work; sometimes it is outer and sometimes inner, and sometimes both. The work marks or memorializes process along the way. Cosmic and natural forces, from the cyclical to the unpredictable, inspire. When the mundane informs the subject matter, objects become symbols of something that is “other” than ordinary. The cultures talk to each other. Art is the memory of the world. What is it remembering?

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Other Exchanges

- Berlin / New York Exchange
- Wuppertal / New York Exchange
- New York City Exchange
Sept. 2006 The Painting Center
Sept. 2006 Studio Visits
Sept. 2006 Pace University
Sept. 2006 Panel Discussion
see details
view all artwork
Acitore Artezione
William Artt
Bill Brand
Emma Connolly
Rita Duffy
Ray Duncan
Barbara Friedman
Mimi Gross
Robert Janz
Katy Martin
Ruth McCullough
Ross Neher
Mark O’Grady
Jack Pakenham
Ima Pico
Adele Pound
Peter Richards
Gail Ritchie
Maura Sheehan
Sandi Slone
Gwenn Thomas
Jennifer Trouton
April Vollmer
Claire Whitten
Jo Wood-Brown
Michael Zwack
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