Arts : First Thursdays

imageThe Evening Opening Routine

On the first Thursday of each month the ‘non – commercial’ galleries open on the late night shopping day, to attract the regulars and newcomers to what usually turn out to be very decent curated works. Some of it is evolving, some matured and most often it is radically opposed to the diet normally found in commercial galleries. While the commercial world has high end expenses and favoured locations with a recurring rota of artists with new ones added carefully and well highlighted work the task of providing the significant, challenging, experimental approaches, present mutation of ideas, imagination driven art is left to the so called fringe Galleries whose emphasis wish new work and practices and who tend to be heavily reliant on public support through Council delivery programmes; City, Arts, British or as elements of larger Cultural events sometimes driven directly from the DCAL patronage.

As I raised in the previous blog on 28 May Art : Perhaps on the clearly merited exhibition so short and under resourced, it is as track contrast to the multi layered ‘commissioners’ ‘specialists’ whose salaries swallow up funds that the Chairs and Boards of Studios and Independant galleries could much better create an Arts Belfast Collective. ABC? . The wider Collective taking in the similar Bangor, Banbridge, Newry, Derry, Armagh and smaller town expectations for a lively FUNCTIONING arts community.

Presently the Arts are prisoners of the inexact measurements, assessments and projections which are so far removed from the activities of the development of arts as to find itself pigeonholing directions aspirations and returns into balderdised columns and unsuitable questionable hype, ambiquious, amphiboles essays on art which I swear must be a prerequisite to secure a post on the Arts Council.

The management and platitudes serve them retaining face in the designs constructed by Governments and political choices. In the museums Art is censored and is subjective allowing very little narrative, just is art. This is how WE define art. The F.E.McWilliams gallery debacle is another case of censorship. The closet anyone came in the media to raising the possible presence of censorship came from an opinion piece writer whose ‘article’ in the Belfast Telegraph made little attempt at asking, understanding the Ulster Museums narrow window of ‘Troubles’ Art. The article was merit less and conversely speaks a great deal of the lack of arts education and adult appreciation of this extremely important part of our civilisation. What the artists who receive the least support and assistance.

One or two well publicized announcements of scholarships, awards, bursaries are not enough and are tokenism by the Arts Council and their masters. In the Arts : Perhaps series there is clearly a misapprehension of the value of education when all the authorities are interested in are the numbers and through-put. The support once graduation ends is minimal and not in keeping with the necessity for placements and life long learning.

The film industry has through its own valuable networking reached very high through its own capacity to communicate. it is in a communications business and plot material are often bread and circuses material with again few offshoots for experimental material. More prevalent, evident in France, Poland, Serbia, Czech Republic and other less well placed film industries. The difference is there is a cultural and educational belief which is wide spread in those ‘other’ places and though blood – Game of Thrones, Dracula, The Fall etc usually sell hence the indulgence chasing the dollar if not the explanation. The Humanities face problems in Belfast and Northern Ireland as they do in other nations. Queens University Belfast is classified as a STEM university and its Humanities Institutes have taken a hit in the recent decade. The persuasive element they apparently hold is with regard to Conflict Resolution.

Despite the conflict here being unresolved with successive regimes reliant on outsiders to step in and act as caretaker without any idea of the necessity of local dialoguer only; the preferred option is to create the appearance of peace while tearing any prospect of it apart while various selfish agendas are followed. The Universities are no different and despite the Arts being a discipline which has over many lifetimes delivered despite the smallest of real inward support, it is found again at the highest education level to be considered immaterial.

Never has the lack of Arts been pushed away from the basic level of education. Its fate has been to contain its overt significance in a middle tier strategy which will receive its patronage from the middle and corporate sectors and become a toy mechanic of culture with little expect for indigenous creativity. Art Education has been reformed into a Government – Society contrived symbiotic relationship which has all the intensity of falseness. The pupils who take on any part of the Humanities are the epitome of what is best among the civilized universe.

The new artists; despite the self destructive regimes of economic partisanship the leverage they create,  is bought up and sold back to the populus in assemblages of perceived value. The ability of science to apply technologies advances are themselves shifting and becoming democracised by new generations whose expectations have splipped off the constraints Governments unwieldingly pursue in response to elections and unrepresentative mandates.

The new generations of Artists deploy and collaborate much more effectively than ever, movements of Artists are currently, for example, unifying, signing up together to secure exhibition fees whenever they are sought to put their work into the public arena as a cultural component. the days of exploitation by Cultural institutions advancing their own niche is going to change with residency programmes, pooling of post- graduate and non graduate resources which hopefully will turn around the bureaucracy, the extremely inefficient, underachieving quasi political dinasors of the Arts Council and its relatives.

Catalyst Arts 5 – 20th June 2014

Just to relate some of the material present – the Ormston House quartet of artists from Limerick have put together a space responsive exhibition on light and sculpture.


All that remains to be seen is Jamin Keogh’s work in the side room.

In darkness 15 a4/size approx. light boxes contain transparencies each with bodily or oblique images relating to human fabric. It requires you to walk in the darkness along the line circling the room evident of other people also navigating and some stopping for periods to reflect on the images. Some sound is discern able but it is unclear. This forced engagement metaphorically speaks of the certitude death becomes which is a stimuli represented by having no choice if wanting to engage but to walk the line.


Untitled 12 x 650 amp lights, stands, sensor, 2014. by Elaine Leader


It is the first piece encountered as it is in the main front space. With it being on an open evening there is much more gained discussion wise as so many people encounter it at once. The conflicting experiences of this sensor operative piece is illuminating. That is what it is – again in darkness a necklace of studio lamps each with heavy wattage, each about five feet tall – all light up the entire space when someone or two enter the circle where at a point central they activate the lights. The he sensory overload comes to each differently and is compelling in its active destabalising or affirmation of the living experiment. Whether the number of people is influencing your response remains to be seen on another day.

Network by Paul Quast


Is a work with neodymium magnets, fluorescent tubes. A corner of the back room, again a dark space is where the above items are located. The box on the floor is the dynamic – see science box for explanation – it activates a pair of fluorescents burning off attained energy controlled by the box. The effect is strobe like and only a little disconcerting with other experience combining to loosen fear or tentative viewing. It is in fact quite neighborly and only its lack of functionality is of consequence.

Wardrobe by Lorraine Nesson Wardrobe,

Is mirrors, lights, 2012 A beautiful Mahogany Double cased Wardrobe sits off centre in the last darkened space. It is as if arriving at a dislocation of a temple as the lights wind round each space defining its back edge into which is transplanted a mirror to each ‘chamber’. The light if reflected in repeated diminished perspective into the vanishing supposed container of a deep tunnel seen through the Wardrobe. Though not referenced and no teen part of conception it nevertheless imitates The Narnia Belfast Bloomfield C.S.Lewis narration as well as the other fabled adventures. This piece does not offer adventure but describes I think other dimensioned reality. It appears cathedral like and of spiritual significance in a small way.


at Catalyst Arts from 5th – 20th June 2014

John Graham 6 June 2014 Belfast