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@NorthernSlant @SharedFuture Essays Photography

Transforming memories of war into memories of peace: Imagine Peace #GRWeek18

Transforming memories of war into memories of peace: Imagine Peace #GRWeek18
by Allan LEONARD
18 September 2018

Imagine Peace is a photography exhibition launched at Belfast Exposed as part of Good Relations Week, featuring artists Ingrid Guyon and Antonio Amador with their Colombian peacebuilding subjects.

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@MrUlster

Mr Ulster buys a painting


Mr Ulster buys a painting
30 November 2017

For my 50th birthday, I wanted a special gift, something that I would always attribute to that milestone event. I have long appreciated visual arts; I even took a few art history modules at university. I dabbled with drawing, which I enjoyed, but quickly realised that getting competent in oils is a whole different matter. My father was an artist — well at least he earned a Master of Fine Arts at California State University Fullerton and produced a few items. (For my birthday, my mother kindly gifted me one of his pieces of sculpture.)

Over the years I’ve admired countless masterpieces and items of contemporary art, wondering if I’d ever be able to afford owning one myself. Framed prints have served as a substitute, and I’ve always been happy displaying them. This includes a large ‘live drawing’ by Brian John Spencer, done during a talk that my wife, Beverley, and I gave at TEDxStormont in 2014.

I’ve known Brian since he was a recent graduate of the law school at Queen’s University Belfast. He came into my office with an interest in drawing political cartoons. That proposal didn’t quite match our needs, but I remain grateful for having this introduction of an artist as a young man.

And I’ve enjoyed watching Brian evolve and mature as an artist.

Everyone enjoys his happy demeanor, and he appears to have found a satisfactory balance between working for commission and the pursuit of art as a lifestyle.

I regretted not being able to attend his first solo exhibition earlier this year, but made sure to make it for his current one, “Home is where the art is”, at Canvas Gallery, Stranmillis Road, Belfast.

At the reception event, I immediately complimented him on his snazzy dark navy with red flower blazar; this dandy sartorial choice entirely compatible with hipster sensibilities.

Brian explained the inspirations for “Home is where the art is” as emanating from his “32 counties in 32 days” grand tour of the island as well as the story of Seán Keating, who documented the Irish war of independence.

On one side of the gallery were a selection of original paintings he made for a series of prints that hung on the other side.



The prints are clearly in the style of Ulster Transport Authority and others’ efforts to promote tourism in the province of Ulster — an updated version, refreshed with new sites, such as the Titanic building and the Peace Bridge in Derry-Londonderry.




One of the paintings particularly caught my eye: the Stormont Estate. Beyond admiring Brian’s rendition of Parliament Buildings on top of the hill, with billowing clouds passing overhead, this image is one that I am familiar with, as it is from the perspective of the car park where I walked from when I worked here.

The longer I admired this painting, the more I knew that I would cherish it. I had to own it.

I returned to Brian and told him that this would be my first ever purchase of an original painting. After explaining to him why so, he showed me some “en plein air” photographs that he took of himself painting this image, as well as several others. “I know that tree!” I replied.



En plein air

After making payment, I asked the exhibition hostess, Meghan Downey (an artist in her own right; see her selected piece at the RUAS exhibition at Ulster Museum), if she’d take a photo of patron and artist. She kindly obliged.

The patron and the artist

I was buzzing with excitement, which Mark Neale generously let me share with him. Mark also worked at Parliament Buildings, and we both reviewed the painting’s beauty and significance for both of us. Mark teased that he only wish it was an official flag day when Brian painted the image.

Considering the journey that I have made to relocate and settle in Northern Ireland — a place I call home — and to do my wee bit to encourage political and social progress here, I find it most fitting that my first proper art acquisition is of a place where many have tried to make peace work.


“Home is where the Art is” exhibition is on display at Canvas Galleries, 76 Stranmillis Road, Belfast, from 30 November — 9 December 2017: http://canvasgalleries.com

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@NorthernSlant Essays Photography

A victim from the inside out: Photographic exhibition of Maurice Hobson

A victim from the inside out: Photographic exhibition of Maurice Hobson
by Allan LEONARD
6 September 2017

Maurice Hobson was a 17-year-old pupil at Dungannon Royal School when a bomb blew up in Market Square, while he was waiting to board the school bus. A car jack hit him on the left side of his head, requiring over 80 stitches.

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@NorthernSlant Essays Photography

Solace or detachment in our journeys? @Translink_NI photography exhibition

Solace or detachment in our journeys? Translink photography exhibition
by Allan LEONARD
9 August 2017

Passengers who have travelled through Belfast Central Station this summer have had an opportunity to meet others captured in photographs by students from Ulster University’s School of Art.

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@NorthernSlant Audio Essays Photography

Poetry & Place: Photographic interpretations of Louis MacNeice

Poetry & Place: Photographic interpretations of Louis MacNeice
by Allan LEONARD
25 July 2017

Women of the Ards peninsula worked with community artist, Jane McComb, to use photography not only to document social, maritime, and agricultural legacy of the area, but also to give interpretation to the writings of poet, Louis MacNeice (1907–1963), who is buried locally in Christ Church, Carrowdore.

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@SharedFuture @SluggerOToole

“Art can tread where words and politics often can’t”: The Art of Conflict Transformation @The_JHS

“Art can tread where words and politics often can’t”: The Art of Conflict Transformation @The_JHS
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
25 July 2017

As part of the 30th anniversary of the John Hewitt Society international summer school, the Institute for Conflict Research (ICR) sponsored a panel discussion, “The Art of Conflict Transformation”, which explored how visual and performance art have contributed to our evolving conversation of our troubled past, with hope for dealing with legacy as well as prospects for reconciliation.

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@NorthernSlant Essays Photography

Conflicting Images @UlsterMuseum

Conflicting Images @UlsterMuseum
by Allan LEONARD
26 July 2017

As part of its Collecting the Troubles and Beyond initiative, the Ulster Museum currently has an exhibition called Conflicting Images: Photography during the Northern Irish Troubles.

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@NorthernSlant Essays Photography

Softening images of Partition

Softening images of Partition
by Allan LEONARD
24 May 2017

Although John Irvine left Northern Ireland over 15 years ago, having grown up about East Antrim, he retains “strong links” and comes home frequently. Irvine explained how one morning drive accidentally led him to his book, Partition.

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@SharedFuture

Art, peace and reconciliation: In conversation with Rita DUFFY

Art, peace and reconciliation: In conversation with Rita DUFFY
by Allan LEONARD for Shared Future News
11 May 2017

At the last lecture in the spring series of events hosted by the Mitchell Institute of Peace at Queen’s University Belfast, artist Rita Duffy conversed with Professor Fiona Magowan, on how she has applied her creativity to help better understand the world around her.

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@NorthernSlant Essays Photography

Stéphane DUROY: Selecting memories

Stéphane DUROY: Selecting memories
by Allan LEONARD
3 May 2017

A recent exhibition in Le Bal featured a retrospective of the work by Stéphane Duroy. Again and Again contained a selection of hung prints on the ground floor and an installation of his reworked book, Unknown, in the lower level.

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Essays Photography

Reciprocated Gaze @BelfastExposed

I found myself with spare time before the bus commute home, so I popped over to Belfast Exposed, where I knew there was a exhibition of participants in its Stage 3 training photography courses.

Coincidentally, I discovered as I walked in that there was a session of portfolio reviews. About half a dozen tables on the ground floor, with artists showing their works to friendly critics. The gallery assistant welcomed me to carry on and inspect the Interactions exhibition on the surrounding walls. I did so, but felt like an interloper. (I didn’t eavesdrop, I promise.)

Perhaps because of the intense buzzing chatter around me, I wasn’t able to absorb the significance of the work in front of me. I knew about some of the artists, but nothing left an indelible impression.

I walked up the long flight of stairs to the upper floor, where I was greeted kindly by a member of staff (a marked contrast to my previous visit when I was told off for trying to reaffix a fallen magnet pin to an image).

Entitled Reciprocated Gaze, the work of nine artists were on display, described as a response to the Interactions exhibition down below.

It is an elevation.

The standard was very high, across the genres displayed.

There were two artists that stood out for me.

Both were triptyches, a set of three images in a row.

Judith Cole’s Mission Halls of Northern Ireland is a four-year project, to be published in a book of the same name this year. Here on display were three images of details inside a hall (or more) — collection baskets, seats, song books. They made me ponder the people who attend and worship.

Chrysoula Drakaki’s three images of Piraeus Port were taken on the same day, capturing three different social aspects of Greece. There is the expectant image of the aground ship (which evokes the tragedy and loss of life), complemented with tourists sitting at the stern of another one, and a street scene. The trilogy is superb.

And this got me thinking about a recent article that I read about the obsession of the perfect single image in a photographer’s project. I would use the word tyranny. Because if photography is about story telling, then unless you’ve either captured a photojournalistic moment or carefully staged a scene with requisite elements, then a short series of images can be just as powerful, if not more.

Both Interactions and Reciprocated Gaze exhibitions are on display at Belfast Exposed from 12 January – 18 February 2017.

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Essays Photography

Book review – Failed It!

Failed It! by Erik Kessels is an easy read of his encouragement of embracing failure as a means of revealing a better discovery. He intersperses his quips with visual inspirations, from both the intentional (by seasoned artists) and the unintentional (by reconsidering the work of some amateurs).

The strength of this short book is demonstrating how play — and a sense of humour — can create something unique, breaking away from the mundane.

I appreciated his sharing of the work of Heike Bollig, André Thijssen, Kent Rogowski, Ruth van Beek, and Joachim Schmid.

But how far does one live with such an approach?

For example, Kessels writes, “Children learn by trying and failing … But children also live in a dream world of play, where mistakes have no consequences, nor are they burdened by the terror of self-consciousness.”

“So why shouldn’t adults do the same?” he asks.

Perhaps because as adults, some mistakes do have consequences. And I would argue that overcoming the terror of our environmental conditioning (finish school, get that job, marry that person, have a family) requires more than acting like a child.

Being a failed parent or spouse may enrich your own life, but there’s a difference between the discarding of literal scraps of paper versus human relationships.

So I’ll take Failed It! for what it is — don’t seek perfection when exploring your own creativity.

But the learning process for emotional intelligence is a harder read.