Another new (temporary) home for our exhibition in a bottle! Last weekend the repacked artworks were driven across the Netherlands to North Holland and delivered to curator Ciara Finnegan in The Dollhouse Space. Ciara is a visual artist from Northern Ireland who has been living and working in The Netherlands since 2008. She is also the director of The Dollhouse Space, a non-profit, experimental, bilocational contemporary art space with a virtual presence here and a physical presence in her home in Heemstede, North Holland.
Ciara has been installing the work in the Dollhouse, and creating her own beautiful art in response. This is her work inspired by John Rainey’s delicate porcelain sculpture.
A love letter to ‘To think about things together that appear to be separate.’
I should know better. Living half my life in a world of miniatures, I, if anything, should know deceits of scale! And yet, when I unpacked you, your tininess surprised me.
I unwrapped you and held you. A palm full of hands. Yours in mine. . “Wow! Wow mummy! Actually, Wow!” . I’ve unpacked and packed you up again a hundred times today already, so scared am I of causing a fracture. A fissure. A flesh wound. You sit on my desk now, like an exquisite paperweight, a precious shell. . You are all right hands.
(I only noticed this when we set to modelling our own versions of you in Play Doh.) . I place you on a mirror plate. There are your lefts. Take your partner by the hand! A round of applause, please! . Twelve hands, different colours: A family portrait.
Follow and explore Not Alone‘s new iteration at The Dollhouse Space on Instagram here and here.
In our latest GTG Junior Gallery Newsletter you can explore our new Project Space exhibition Fionnghlas by Paul Moore, learn about the art created in lockdown by artists Nina Cosford, David Hockney, Antony Gormley and the mysterious street artist Banksy, and find out how you can take part in The Great Big Art Exhibition, the largest exhibition ever staged! Plus you can see our Work of the Month, and ideas for fun art activities.
GTG is excited to announce that we are a partner of ‘The Great Big Art Exhibition’, led by Firstsite and supported by the Plus Tate Network and Arts Council England.
Whether you are a professional artist, enthusiast, dabbler or complete first-timer, you can help unleash art, expression and creativity across the UK by creating your own artwork and sharing.
Artworks can be made of anything at all. You can work on your own, as a household, or devise collaborations with your friends, work colleagues, team members, tower block, street, school, or place of worship. Anything goes!
I hope you all had a restful holiday period and are adjusting to being back at work, albeit working from home. Last year we hosted three online sessions, one for individuals and two for organisations; each session focused on a different aspect of diversity and inclusion within the arts.
I wrote a summary of the first session and the problems using the term BAME and how it is damaging, particularly when attempting to increase diversity and inclusion. The discussion then turned to the active steps that galleries and organisations to make people of colour feel more welcomed in their spaces.
The second and third sessions featured guest speakers who touched upon several points on improving diversity which I also summarised in a previous blog. The overarching message from the two sessions was that making their organisation diverse is something all organisations should and can work towards; even the smallest step is one in the right direction.
Many important points were highlighted in the first three sessions, which we hope to expand and build upon in the final three sessions. The next three sessions will take a new outlook on diversity and inclusion within the arts, through a Northern Irish context. What became apparent from our sessions is that Northern Ireland is in a unique position compared to the rest of the UK. In terms of the progression of diversity, it is too simple to look at existing models within mainland UK or elsewhere and attempt to implement the in NI without taking into account the complexities of NI.
The goal of these sessions is to continue to facilitate meaningful conversations about diversity and inclusion that are needed within the sector. The session will hopefully provide an open space for organisations to talk to individuals about their needs and what they, as an audience, would like to see improved to make them feel more welcomed in these spaces.
So far, our unique touring exhibition Not Alone has…
Been viewed by 10,000 virtual visitors
Showcased new work by 8 Northern Irish and Irish artiststo audiences across Europe.
Survived 9 packing and unpacking processes almost intact…
Clocked up over 2700 miles – the artworks have travelled from Belfast to Bologna, Bologna to Rome, across Rome, then on to Amsterdam… and there are more destinations to come!
Not Alone features new work by eight of the most exciting artists working on this island, in response to the state of the world right now: Sharon Kelly, Clare Gallagher, Joy Gerrard, Graham Gingles, Ailbhe Greaney, John Rainey, Megan Doherty and Chloe Austin. Each artwork was created to be tiny or portable enough to fit together inside a glass bottle and travel to different curators around Europe.
The exhibition was created for our new Covid-transformed world. With isolation measures, travel restrictions and quarantine rules affecting art exhibitions and collaborations in every way, GTG Director Peter Richards was inspired by a fragment of a classic song to imagine a visual arts message in a bottle.
In August 2020 Not Alone was sent out from Belfast to its first destination: Italy. When it arrived in Bologna, Chiara Matteucci became the first curator to create her own version of the exhibition, installing the artworks in her home. Then the exhibition travelled across Italy to Rome, where it was shown in the homes of two curators, Manuela Pacella and Micol di Veroli. Just before Christmas, the exhibition travelled over more than 1000 miles across Europe to the Netherlands, where it was installed in a communal space in the University of Amsterdam Art History department by Prof Christa Maria Lerm Hayes and her team.
Next for Not Alone, a shorter trip across the Netherlands to travel to the wonderful, appropriately tiny experimental space The Dollhouse in Heemstede and curator Ciara Finnegan. And then the exhibition will make its return to Northern Ireland! Its final destination in its current form will be Derry/Londonderry.
Watch this space for more details, including how we plan to welcome all the artworks home!
This year the Golden Thread Gallery will join with schools, community groups, art galleries and museums across the UK taking part in the Foundation Stones project, a very special art project to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
Foundation Stones invites you to paint a stone in memory of all those who were murdered in the Holocaust by the Nazi regime. You can also choose to dedicate your stone to those murdered in the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Building on the Jewish custom of placing a pebble on headstones when visiting a grave, the painted stones from across the UK will be gathered together to become a physical part of the new UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London.
On Wednesday 20th January you can join a special stone painting workshop online – we’ll be taking part too. Sign up here.
You can also download this guide to painting your stone:
Holocaust Memorial Day takes place on 27th January 2021. It is the day for everyone to remember the the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution, and those murdered in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. By marking this solemn day, we not only remember and honour the people who died, we make a commitment to learn the lessons of the past. We must never forget how genocide can happen if discrimination, hatred and racism are allowed to grow in our societies, and we don’t act to prevent them. Violence still continues in Darfur.
This is a very difficult subject for children – how do I talk to my kids about the Holocaust?
We recommend the Foundation Stones project for children aged 10 and over.
It is very difficult to talk about horrific events like genocide with children, but there are many learning resources that may help. The BBC Teach site has teaching guides including short animated films. The Imperial War Museum has some short films online exploring Jewish life and culture, and the roots of antisemitism here (suitable for age 11 onwards).
This week’s workshop will show you how to make your own miniature chest of drawers out of a cardboard box. We probably have lots of these left over from the holidays, so it would be great to make them useful again! The most fun part of making your own mini furniture is painting it however you please – this week’s theme I wanted us to look at what makes us happy. My new year’s resolution is to do more of what I love – I don’t want to change myself at all! I want to make these drawers and paint as well as fill them with all the wonderful little things that keep me smiling.
What you need:
Poster paint or acrylic paint
What to do: 1. Measure out the cardboard pieces as I have done here and cut them in these shapes.
2. Hold up the flaps, and tape them together at their sides to form a box.
3. Paint your chest and drawers! WARNING: make sure they dry fully for a few hours before you assemble them, as they can get stuck inside.
4. Paint and fill your drawers with all the things in the lovely big world that make you happy!
As the year is quickly drawing to a close, it is only right to reflect on it. It goes without saying that 2020 has been one to remember for a lot of reasons (particularly an eleven-letter word on everyone’s mind that starts with a C and ends with an S). And it would be very easy to allow the challenging and difficult times to overshadow a number of positive things that have happened this year. But one evident positive outcome of 2020 was the fact that black lives matter was brought back to the forefront of many minds. The BLM protests central message of racial equality made waves throughout several arts institutions, who became conscious of – or were forced to confront – their lack of diversity.
Over the past months, as part of its Community Foundation NI New Needs project, the Golden Thread Gallery has hosted three sessions to discuss how we as arts organisations can all endeavour to put diversity and equality at the forefront.
In the second session, our guest speaker Seema Manchanda, Managing Director of The Showroom, accurately pointed out that when it comes to making progress on the matter, as long as an organisation is consciously attempting to improve diversity, even small actions count to begin with. A similar sentiment was expressed in our third session by our two speakers Jade Foster and Pier Vegner Tosta: namely that improving diversity is not something that can be solved in a couple of weeks. It’s more along the lines of a marathon. Policies around diversity and inclusion should be viewed as a long-term strategy.
Two particularly useful pieces of advice that I took from the sessions were:
Reach out to diverse communities and cater to their needs
This can range from allowing your space just to be a community shared space that can be used in alternative ways. By removing the pressure of getting the community to come to your venue and participate in what you have to offer, a suggestion was to allow your space to be used by them in other ways that they actually need more. This could be a meeting point, learning space or simply a place with no pressure to buy something, offering free tea and coffee; the aim is to make your space useful for the community.
Create an allyship with other organisations
As mentioned above, striving for more diversity is not an easy and quick job. In areas like Belfast, with a smaller diverse population, having an alliance allows for strength in numbers and sharing knowledge.
I hope you have a lovely holiday period and stay safe. See you all in 2021, where the Golden Thread Gallery and I have planned more sessions and activities in the New Needs project, including a host of amazing speakers to hear from and with whom we can discuss making our organisations more inclusive.
Finally, we wanted to share the wonderful presentation that Pier collated for Session Three, featuring artworks and artists that have inspired and informed his own personal and curatorial journey exploring identity, ethnicity, history and memory, and how these can often be blurred into one.
Our exhibition in a bottle has left Italy after four months and travelled across Europe to the Netherlands. Last week it arrived at the University of Amsterdam, and the wonderful UvA Kunstgeschiedenis, or Department of Art History. Art historian, curator and Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History Prof. Dr. Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes, formerly of Ulster University, received it.
This time, instead of being installed in a curator’s home, the exhibition has been installed within a shared space in the university, so that students and staff can visit and explore it. After the fragmented and difficult year that many students have faced, the Art History team felt it was important that “the staff and students, who only occasionally come to the office now, feeling rather alone, will know what’s on and enjoy not being alone…”
Along with Prof. Dr. Lerm-Hayes, the team of Désirée Kroep and Annepiet Nouwen unpacked and photographed the artworks – some of which are now beginning to show the wear and tear of their long journey.
“The glass ‘Tower’ [by Graham Gingles] emerged from the packaging in a form that is still intact in parts, but has many broken bits, too… We thought that this added a dramatic twist to the US flags [by Joy Gerrard] and decided to place it beside them as a toppled structure.”
For those lucky enough to be at University of Amsterdam, the exhibition is located in UvA Kunstgeschiedenis BG2 building (binnengasthuisterrein 2), and will be there until the New Year! The building is open during work hours and the exhibition on 2nd floor accessed (for those without a pass) by asking the porter.
Thanks to all the team at UvA!
Bram Groenteman Désirée Kroep Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes Annepiet Nouwen
On the 24th of October, I kicked off the Golden Thread Gallery Improving Diversity webinar series with an informal discussion with individuals, who were Black, mixed-ethnicity and Asian, and from across the UK and Ireland, about their view of the current state of diversity and inclusion within the arts sector. It was amazing to have a conversation, as diversity should be given within society – not an afterthought. I believe the arts should be at the forefront of diversity and inclusion. Yet, the question has to be asked – is the art sector actually doing anything to address the visible lack of representation and slow rate of change within the sector as a whole?
I opened up the discussion with an eye-opening fact from Jemma Desai’s ongoing study This Work isn’t For Us. Desai found that institutions have been repeating the same rhetoric about the need to reform to foster more diversity and inclusivity since the 70s:
“Diversity narratives in public documents often focus on the lacks, gaps and description of the marginalisation of the excluded rather than the behaviours and attitudes of those that are the beneficiaries of that exclusion – often those that do the excluding.”
This only emphasises the idea that a systemic change is needed to end the cycle of only talking about being inclusive instead of making substantial change.
Within this discussion, I wanted to highlight the importance of language and terminology that organisations used to increase diversity and inclusion and how, in my opinion, has restricted inclusion. Therefore, a large majority of the discussion was centred around the term BAME.
The origins of BAME began in the 1960s and 1970s, black people would be referred to as the black community. It became apparent that the Asian community wasn’t represented, so it became the black and Asian community. However, it was brought up that the Black and Asian community wasn’t inclusive, and there were other minority ethnic groups not represented, so it changed to BME. However, as non-black minority ethnics were not defined, and the term finally became BAME. Over time BAME has become more of a buzzword within organisations and the government sector as a shorthand and used when companies and organisations want to target diversity.
The participants and I spoke about the fact that the use of BAME “is damaging”, mainly as it forces those that are not white into a metaphorical box, the term “kind of segregates you…”, in addition to placing whiteness as a default within society. By skirting around the issue – my ethnicity – with the term BAME, the word feels like an attempt to segregate from the white default and make those placed in the category feel like an ‘other’. I am black and very much aware of that fact. I am not a ‘BAME’ woman, I think the acronym is a modern way to call someone coloured. BAME can only be regarded as a dirty word to me, highlighting the fact that I am not a part of the mainstream; however, not significant enough to warrant my own racial category.
However, moving forward if the term BAME is rejected, what should be used instead? Might a new name just have the same connotations, because “would it just be replacing BAME with another word?” Any label would bring about more negative connotation – as one participant noted, “words such as ‘BAME’ or ‘people of colour’ are titles that were chosen for us by other people”. Which made me think about a quote from the book Half a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
“I am Nigerian because a white man created Nigeria and gave me that identity. I am black because the white man constructed black to be as different as possible from his white. But I was Igbo before the white man came.”
One of the critical flaws with the term BAME is the term’s ability to diminish the fact that we all face different and unique issues. I cannot comprehend how the experiences of being Asian (which in itself is a diverse grouping within itself) can be lumped into the experiences of being Black. So, by using the term BAME to refer to a target group as a whole to increase inclusivity, organisations fail to look at the nuances that each individual ethnic group have, and ways to cater to what they want. When BAME is used to describe a person, they are basically stripped of their identity and their experiences as an individual.
What was apparent was the fact that we would simply like to see ourselves and individual cultures represented in the arts. This luxury has been afforded white artists as the status quo. The increasing the number of ethnic minorities participating within the arts would go hand in hand with the increase of artists from an ethnic minority background. An example we talked about was a children’s book Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne; the illustrations in the book depicted a culture that resembles their own, it showed Africa, the culture and the landscape.
To put it simply, if people from a black, Asian and ethnic minority background saw more of their culture represented within the arts, they would be more inclined to engage with and participate in it. It is easy to say, in a place like Northern Ireland that lacks diversity, that there is less urgency to expand and diversify the programme to showcase artists of different backgrounds. However, the ethnic landscape has changed dramatically in Northern Ireland and the works of art and institutions that present them should reflect this change.
It is a well-known fact that the Arts sector is predominantly white and too hard to break into; active steps need to be taken to make the industry more diverse and welcoming. There should also be more of an attempt to seek out and find ethnic minorities and show their work, connecting with the artists over platforms such as social media.
Organisations in NI and ROI that are doing amazing things!
Please note this is not an exclusive list – If you are aware of more, please email them to us!
We’ve been lucky to see this year’s Outburst exhibition What al-Nadeem Knewhere in the gallery, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to share it with the public yet, as we are still closed under Covid-19 restrictions. We hope we can re-open in time to welcome you all back to see it.
In response to the exhibition, our Gallery Assistant Katharine has created a fun drawing workshop for our Junior Gallery artists. In the activity Katharine and Esther explore how we might imagine a person differently if we take away pronouns that are used for a girl or a boy. We are going to try to describe someone we know purely by what they look like, what they like to do and their personality and then draw them!
The person you draw may look different to the person you know!
What you are going to need: 2 pieces of paper Something to draw with: pencil, rubber Something to colour with: pens, pencils, crayons, paints etc. A partner for the exercise (if no one is available you can also print off our suggested list of descriptions)
Continuing our re-cataloguing of GTG Exhibition Archive material, Gallery Assistant and artist Katharine Paisley writes about one of her favourite (re)discoveries so far!
Recently, we’ve been sorting through old archive material – as a new(ish) member of the GTG team, I’ve found this a great way to get to know the Gallery’s past and the journey it’s been on to get to where we are now.
Something that stood out for me in the archive was an old show programme for Juno Calypso’s ‘The Honeymoon Suite’. I don’t want to disappoint Calypso by falling into the gender stereotype but the beautiful pink imagery pulled me in!
On the programme’s front cover Juno Calypso’s character ‘Joyce’ stands in a blush pink room, surrounded by pink furniture and ornate pink curtains, this contrasts against her costume of a wig, a white beaded wedding dress and a pink electronic beauty mask. The only other objects in the shot include a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Oil and a plate.
Described as a ‘photographic mission’ ‘The Honeymoon Suite’ captures Calypso’s week spent posing as a travel writer at a couples-only honeymoon resort in Pennsylvania, while in character as her alter ego Joyce. London born photographer Calypso has been using this alter ego since 2011 to ‘re-enact the private underlife of a woman consumed by the laboured construct of femininity’.
“All of my work essentially boils down to two things: desire and disappointment […] The honeymoon hotel is a space charged with anticipation, and desire. I like to put my character through the rituals that would otherwise play out in these spaces with two people – the preparation, and then watch as disappointment unfolds. Solitude and loneliness are big themes. I’ll only ever appear alone.” Juno Calypso.
The photographic work has a really beautiful almost ethereal feel to it. I would have assumed these places were sets if not told otherwise. Calypso described the resort as clearly being dreamt up in the head of a man; solely designed ‘for looking at your lover, or at yourself’. Apparently, Juno saw pictures of the Hotel in Pennsylvania, decided instantly she needed to go there to make work and was on location with her costumes and camera a week later.
The pastel shades and lighting are delicate and pretty, which contrasts against the sexuality Joyce is exploring and the assortment of anti-aging products she is desperately experimenting with.
The juxtaposition Calypso’s single, lonely ‘Joyce’ brings to these honeymoon suites almost creates a humorous tragedy. Joyce is acting out all these rituals that would normally take place between two people, but alone in one the most aesthetically romantic places you could imagine, it’s almost as if she’s in on the joke.
Alongside the exhibition programme was a zine titled ‘FEMALE GAZE’, which was created in collaboration with Go Girl, Golden Thread Gallery and Juno Calypso. The zine was a product of a workshop titled ‘Zining the Female Gaze’, each page was designed by a participant of the workshop. The work created aimed to visually combat the male gaze; edgy, feminist, collage is how I’d describe the resulting zine.
Juno Calypso was born in London in 1989, and is a London based artist working with photography, film and installation. She developed ‘Joyce’ in 2012, channelling suburban isolation by placing her in garish sets furnished with pastel curtains and plastic food. Her degree show was awarded both the Hotshoe Portfolio Award and the Michael Wilson Photography Prize. In 2013 The Catlin Art Guide featured Calypso as one of 40 of the most promising new artists in the UK, subsequently shortlisting her for the 2013 Catlin Art Prize. She was British Journal of Photography, IPA Series prize winner in 2016 and her work has been featured in The Guardian, Dazed & Confused and in the projects section of the British Journal of Photography. For her latest project, What to do With A Million Years,Juno staged photographs in a mansion built underneath Las Vegas in the 70s as a shelter from nuclear terror, and currently owned by a mystery group attempting to achieve immortality.
Image Credit: Juno Calypso, 12 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time, 2013, Photographic C-Type print, 101.6 x 152.4 cm / 40 x 60 in.
Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions the wonderful exhibition ‘Put It To The People‘ by Joy Gerrard is currently closed to the public. In lieu of being able to see the artworks in real life, we are delighted to bring you this unique and in-depth interview with the artist. Exhibitions Officer Mary Stevens speaks to Joy about the exhibition, her art practice, and plans for the future in a fascinating conversation which provides unique insight into this exceptional artist’s work.
Filmed and edited by Simon Mills. With thanks to Joy Gerrard, Arts Council NI and Belfast City Council.
The run of ‘Put It To The People’ is extended to 18th December, so book your visit now from our reopening on 14th Novembre!
Perhaps Our Awakening Is Our Deeper Dream by Thomas Brezing is an exploration of human mortality, made in the wake of the death of the artist’s mother.
While the exhibition’s run in our Project Space was unfortunately cut short by the latest Covid-19 restrictions, Thomas has used the documentation photographs by Simon Mills to create this new short film tour of the artworks, with unique insight into its creation and his inspirations.
About the Exhibition
The exhibition consisted of works on paper – incorporating drawing, painting, print, poetic texts and collage – as well as four large artist books and an installation which quietly address fundamental existential questions: the transience, impermanence and fragile nature of our lives (and selves). The range of media and of modes of presentation reflects the artist’s interest in investigating different kinds of image-making and different ways of representing self, other, and the ties that bind us and which are loosed by death. This formal exploration mirrors the philosophical preoccupations captured in the exhibition’s title: the nature of consciousness, of reality itself.
The title image presents a central motif of the exhibition in which birds – creatures of both earth and sky – are emblems of grounded transcendence.
About the Artist:
Thomas Brezing is a Dublin based multi-disciplinary artist. His choice and use of materials is often intuitive, the product of experiment and improvisation. He enjoys allowing the work evolve on its own terms so that over time it finds its own form and determines its finished state. Time, loss, memory, absence are abiding concerns, as is his investigation of the nature of identity and, for him, the umbilical connections between his ‘German past’ and his ‘Irish present’.
About the Curator:
Sharon Murphy is an artist and curator based in Dublin. She has commissioned public art in a range of contexts and been curator-in-residence at Draíocht Art Centre since 2017. Murphy has curated and produced large and small-scale visual art projects and exhibitions in both gallery and public art contexts since 2009. Her work as a curator at Draíocht has been committed to the practice of emerging and mid-career artists and has focused on interdisciplinary practice, visual culture/new technologies, performance and work for children and young people.
Golden Thread Gallery is launching a series of events that will encompass webinars, talks and workshops, all focussed on widening participation within the arts sector and supported by the Community Foundation NI New Needs fund. Our first events are a series of three online discussion sessions. hosted by our New Needs intern Esther Andare.
The discussions will explore what improvements are needed in striving for more inclusivity and engagement for people from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background in the Arts – from visual art to dance, theatre, music, performance, photography, literature and beyond.
Our first discussion on 14th November is aimed at individuals of colour or who identify as part of a minority ethnic community, to discuss their personal experiences as audience members. It aims to create a space for a candid conversation to cover topics including:
The current state of diversity within the arts and Esther’s personal experiences
A discussion about possible strategies and best practices to increase inclusivity and community engagement
The term ‘BAME’ itself, and how it is used to group minorities
We will ask: ‘What should art galleries and organisations do and have in place to make you (Black, Asian and minority ethnic people) feel welcomed and encouraged to visit galleries?’
GTG New Needs Intern Esther Andare writes to mark Black History Month in the UK.
Entering the later part of 2020, we are left to adapt our lives to the ‘new normal’ due to the pandemic, but also to deal and process with the aftermaths of the Black Lives Matter protests. These worldwide protests that are still ongoing in some states in America stemmed from the unjust killings of black people, such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers.
Growing up in England, Black History Month was never something that was overtly highlighted or celebrated. To put it simply, there is a significant lack of representation within the educational system; Black British history is never taught and often substituted for a single lesson on Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Not that these revolutionary historical figures should not be taught; however, they are not the be-all and end-all of black history. So, it is evident by the increased awareness of Black History Month this year, that things are changing, with major organisations such as Sainsbury’s and the Royal Mail partaking in spreading awareness. This leaves me with a glimmer of hope that momentum from all the protests over summer in terms of racial inequality has not been lost. However, more is needed than just symbolic gestures and acknowledgement of the month. There needs to be racial equality in all aspects of society and culture; more uncomfortable conversations had about the realities of being Black.
The commemoration of Black History Month in the U.K. began in 1987 by a Ghanaian analyst, Akyaaba Addai-Sebo. His original goal was to use the month to create a cultural space in the U.K. Addai-Sebo whilst working at the Greater London Council, hosted Dr Maulana Karenga to talk about the contribution of black people throughout history month was first celebrated in London. Eventually, Black History Month was celebrated and recognised by local authorities and voluntary groups around the U.K.
Before going through the archives, I was only really aware of Sir Steve McQueen as the Director of the Oscar-winning film Twelve Years a Slave and upcoming T.V. miniseries Small Axe. McQueen is also equally as talented an accomplished artist, he was the recipient of the Turner Prize in 1999 and currently has an exhibition at the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern. McQueen is very vocal about racism within the arts and pushes for diversity amongst the art, particularly in the film industry. In a recent interview with Esquire where McQueen reflected on the killing of George Floyd, he also noted the conscious efforts that he went to put a person of a minority in every single department whilst filming Small Axe. Mainly because McQueen believed that ‘what’s behind the camera [diversity] should be reflected in front of the camera.’
Queen and Country was made to both commemorate and remember the individuals that fought and died in the Iraq War. In 2006 McQueen travelled to Basra in Iraq, spending six days embedded with British troops. The work was initially meant to be a film about the soldiers he spent time with; however, due to restrictions, McQueen found other ways to convey the Iraq conflict. McQueen created an oak cabinet that was mounted with double-sided panels. The panels displayed 168 stamps showing the soldiers on the sheets along with their names, regiments, dates of death. McQueen used stamps because of their beautiful scale, allowing the photo to be recognisable and stamps could go around the world. The poignant work looks into the loss of lives and how that translated into a national loss, and in the same breath, Queen and Country explores the idea of remembrance.
I find McQueen’s tribute to the dead soldiers to be incredibly poignant, due to the numbness that people feel about war and the deaths that are entrenched in war as stamps are such a public affair and would be seen by many people, forcing the viewers to confront the effect of war and remember the loss that comes with the conflict.
“‘Conflict and loss are so intrinsically linked that the problem of how to remember, how to memorialise, is ever-present.” – Sir Steve McQueen
Watch Steve McQueen’s Mangroveon BBC iPlayer from the 15th November and Amazon Prime on the 20th of November. Mangrove is a part of a 5-episode miniseries anthology, Small Axe, depicting the lives of Black British people during the 1960s and 1980s.
Other Black History Month events in Northern Ireland:
For the past two weeks, our touring exhibition ‘Not Alone’ has been installed in the Roman home of curator Micol di Veroli and exhibited to the world through her Instagram. Once Micol unpacked the artworks (under the curious gaze of her beautiful cat!), she displayed them amongst her own belongings, and wrote about impressions and inspirations she has drawn from them.
She wrote: “When the pandemic hit us, the world seemed to have stopped. It didn’t take us long to realize how the pandemic could block some things, while others continued to flow inexorably and untouched. With the lockdown in place, millions of people have been confined to their homes. Art has been a companion for many, with artists and museums feeling the need to keep the relationship with their audience alive simply by changing the “spatial dimension”, and by proposing the cultural content via social platforms including Facebook and Instagram. From these assumptions, Not Alone was born, an exhibition involving 8 Irish artists who responded to the call from the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast…”
Here are her writings and pictures of the exhibition so far.
‘To think about things together that appear to be separate’ by John Rainey, 2020. Parian porcelain.
“During the lockdown, thousands of women were forced to share an apartment with an abusive partner or relative. “To think about things together that appear to be separate” is the title of John Rainey’s work borrowed from an essay on intersectional feminism by Angela Davis. The nineties mark the beginning of the third feminist wave. From here, something begins to change. A new awareness is in the air. We realize that until that moment feminism had always spoken exclusively for women, alongside women. And not only. It was just a certain type of women: Western, white, healthy, wealthy. Therefore, there was an urgent need for inclusion. It was time to speak for all those women whose voices are further oppressed due to various personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation, origins, culture of belonging. Hands intertwined with the colours of the Pride flag want to remind us that privileges are not a merit but to defend those who have less than us. “
The Second Shift: On Crumbs of Shadow by Clare Gallagher, 2020. Dryer Lint, Dimensions Variable
“’If you want to be an artist, make all the men you want but don’t have a family’, said Nanda Vigo, undisputed lady of design and of an original artistic research centered on light. In short, being a woman, mother and an artist at the same time hasn’t always been easy. Many artists have given up their careers after giving birth to a child. Clare Gallagher is an artist and a mother. In the series of photographs called “The Second Shift“ she captured the B-side of the life of a woman artist, who returns home and is taking care of her family and housework. The Second Shift: On Crumbs of Shadow is the testimony to the hidden work faced by a woman on a daily basis.”
Sutured by Sharon Kelly, 2020. Scrim, thread
“Sharon Kelly’s practice in recent years has focused on the areas of human experience and the body. In 2018, he she created the “Mind Fuel“ cycle, a survey on the body of athletes under stress. Subsequently her his interest shifted to the body / mind relationship and disease. In the first months of 2020, she was a BSR fellow, and this work represents the cycle carried out in Rome. The work poised between ex-voto and a museum find of human anatomy takes us inside the “Clootie Wells“ or the fabric fountains, an old Irish tradition linked to healing. Pieces of cloth are immersed in the water of the sacred well and then tied to a branch, while a prayer invokes “the spirit of good”. According to tradition, as the rag disintegrates over time, the disease vanishes.”
Not Alone will be with Micol for another week, and then it will continue on it’s journey, travelling next to Amsterdam. Follow its travels on Instagram!
Thanks to support from the Community Foundation NI New Needs award, the Golden Thread Gallery has created a new paid internship role for an individual who identifies as a member of the Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. Following interviews last month, we are delighted to welcome Esther Andare to the team!
“I’m Esther, the new BAME intern, I will be joining the gallery for six months. I’ve lived in Belfast for the past three years studying History at Queen’s. I’m headed into this role with the aim of improving participation of ethnic minorities at the GTG, and highlighting the work of often under-represented artists from an ethnic minority. I’m also excited to expand my knowledge of what happens behind the scenes of an art gallery!”
The internship is a training role which will include working with the gallery team and volunteers, liaising with artists and arts organisations, learning about arts funding in Northern Ireland and beyond, developing outreach activities, exhibition assistance, and visitor experience across the Gallery’s programme and range of activities.
Throughout the 6-month period as Esther gains experience and new skills across the gallery’s operations, she will also work with us to devise a new series of workshops, talks and online events specifically targeted at participants from Northern Ireland’s growing multi-ethnic communities.
We’re excited to have Esther on board, and look forward to working with her!
Manuela documented her version of ‘Not Alone’ on Instagram, and shared her thoughts on having pieces of Belfast with her again. This is her essay about Sharon Kelly‘s ‘Sutured‘ 2020 piece.
“Among the last activities carried out before the lockdown was a studio visit to the British School at Rome at the newly arrived Sharon Kelly, from Belfast, whose light but rather tough sculpture in scrim and red thread I just set up. The anatomical parts remind me of the ones she was drawing at the studio in Rome. […] she spoke of portions of gestures of caring, of caring for each other and I saw so much disease. ‘Sutured’ is now on a small passing way of my house; portions of fabric are connected to each other to form parts of a body through a fiery red thread, at times the same features of arteries; I still see, in that red thread that joins a real suture, a desire to put back together the shards of a vase broken too many years ago. […] My home is now your home. But my home has become sacred since I missed it more than human contact, since I risked seeing it either a few hundred meters away from me, since I know my parents will never see it again, since I decided to take care of it as if it were full of sutures still red, like those of Sharon’s thread, my first artist met after months of forced separation from my previous life and last contact that preceded a global isolation.”
At the end of this week, Manuela will pack the exhibition up and send it on to the next curator – but it’s not going so far this time, just across the city to curator Micol di Veroli!
In today’s workshop, artist Sophie Daly shows you how to make adorable little creatures out of egg cartons. You have probably have been baking lots of treats with family recently. Put those egg cartons to good use by creating a turtle, ladybird or bee to play with!
Turtles, ladybirds and bees are so important to our planet. We can show them our appreciation through art and by protecting them.
You will need:
A soft ball of some sort, out of clay or plastic etc
Water for brushes
You can download a worksheet for each creature too! Which is your favourite?
In today’s virtual workshop, artist Sophie Daly will show you how to create your own beautiful and unique artist’s notebook – every artist needs one!
The emphasis today is on recycled materials. Be creative with what you have around you, and don’t let anything go to waste, nothing is ever useless! Finding creative ways to reduce what we throw away is a brilliant habit to help our planet.
Our touring exhibition ‘Not Alone’ has left Bologna, and is on its way to Rome!
Carefully packed up by our first curator Chiara Matteucci, the artworks will now travel 400km across Italy to the home of Manuela Pacella in Rome. Manuela is an independent curator and writer, and she has visited and worked in Northern Ireland many times in the last decade, including guest curating exhibitions in the Golden Thread and at the MAC, Belfast.
We can’t wait to see her interpretation of the exhibition! (And fingers crossed everything arrives in one piece!).
Make sure to follow us on Instagram to see the arrival, unpacking and installation of ‘Not Alone’ in its second show in Italy.
Today’s GTG Workshop is a colourful and fun activity for a cold and grey day – making a beautiful abstract sun collage, inspired by legendary African-American artist and teacher Alma Thomas. Chloe Morrison guides you through step-by-step, and you can download the worksheet too!
You will need:
A sheet of white paper or card
Glue or Pritt Stick
A pair of suitable scissors
Coloured paper (alternatively, you can use paint sample cards, scraps of fabric, or magazine clippings)
A circular or cylindrical object to trace around, e.g., a tin, jar, glass, bottle or vase
Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891 – 1978) was an African American abstract painter. Her works are renowned for their distinctive brushstrokes and exuberant use of colour. Alma Thomas applied vivid shades of paint to her canvases in short, precise patches, creating irregular, striking patterns. She would often arrange these marks in vertical stripes or concentric circles.
In Thomas’s circular works, rings of colours appear to radiate out from a central point, like rays of light emanating from the sun.
Golden Thread Gallery is delighted to welcome Katharine Paisley to the gallery staff team, as our new Gallery Assistant. It was a long wait for us all, as lockdown delayed our recruitment process!
In this role Katharine will provide assistance and support across the Gallery’s programme and range of activities, from liaising with artists, institutions and funders to general administration, exhibition assistance and introducing visitors to our new Covid-19 gallery guidelines when they arrive.
Katharine is a visual artist whose work is currently focused on creating representational oil paintings and experimental videos which explore the evidence behind the Anthropocene. She is a resident emerging artist at Flax Art Studios, and completed a BA Fine Art degree at the University of Central Lancashire.
Golden Thread Gallery is supported by Arts Council NI and Belfast City Council.
The Golden Thread Gallery’s unique touring exhibition ‘Not Alone’ arrived in Bologna on 30th August. Curator Chiara Matteucci unpacked and installed the artworks in her home, and has been sharing her iteration of the exhibition online for the past week on social media. She’s also shared her own perspective on the project, and where she believes it fits in the field of exhibition-making. Chiara writes:
“The title ‘Not Alone” comes from a Police song, Message in a Bottle. During the quarantine, how many of us experienced a sense of alienation without being lost on a remote island? That nostalgia for social life, human contact, and the possibility of seeing live artworks, is the emotion that moves the project at its beginning; in parallel with the necessity to create something different, able to re-enact old mechanisms and to get people used to the wait, to their right of taking their time to do everything, even experience an exhibition.”
“Almost all of the artists involved decided to create something concrete, more traditional (if we can still use this term), albeit all of them were free to create whatever they want, except for one condition: the artwork had to be able to travel in a bottle. The fact that the artists decided to use traditional media, from sculptures to paintings, to printed photographs, make me think… Is this a coincidence? Or is it a stance, a necessity to take a step back from the digital world? If it’s the latter, is it correct to take that distance?”
“The migration of the Art World online has separated intellectuals in two currents: those who are pro digital and those against, who consider the Internet as a short-term solution. But during this unusual period, we’ve all been grateful to the web and its potentialities. All the art members, from institutions to artists and curators, have tried to exploit as much as they can the digital world to keep themself (and us) alive. Instagram takeovers, podcasts, virtual tours, but also online performances were all been ways to share and make art everywhere. This possibility of being connected with people who comes from the other part of the world, that they might never afford to come overseas to see an exhibition, it is definitely something that we can’t neglect, and it is, in my opinion, the best quality of the Web.”
“This democratic aspect of the world wide web, connecting all the public realm with the cultural system – it belongs to the home, too.”
“Before considering it as a cage, the house has been our refuge and sometimes an art space. To demonstrate this, the Art History is full of subversive examples of exhibitions which took place outside the museums and the famous white cube. Digging more, there is a long thread of art exhibitions in houses that starts from 1986 with the famous Chambres d’Amis at Gand, it passed through The Kitchen curated by Olbrist and arrives at nowadays.”
“If the art system has tried to make Art eternal, neutral, and exclusive, the house gave it back to where it belongs: to the real world. In the house indeed the artworks start to live again, the fruition of them changes and merges with the emotional sphere of the house itself, full of the memories of its owner. Inside the house there are no more hierarchies, it is accessible to everyone; the cultural elite is replaced with the mass. Exactly as the digital realm has done from its beginning, and more and more with the arrival of social media, using its devices to make Art available in a click.”
Artist and Belfast School of Art lecturer Aisling O’Beirn has created this wonderful film collage tour of her studio, and a gallery of work for our latest edition of GTG Artists Present.
Aisling states that her work “explores relationships between politics, space and place, uncovering tensions between disparate forms of official and unofficial information. I examine space and place as physical structures and political entities through sculpture and animations relating to observed and theoretical structures being studied by contemporary astronomers and physicists.”
“I use a range of materials and process for installation and site-specific work, depending on context. Dialogue and discussion are key to participatory projects which have often involved long periods of research. The work is shown in galleries and a variety of public contexts.”
“I established dialogical relationships with astronomers at a range of institutions for recent projects focusing lay persons understandings of astronomy and theoretical physics. The body of work Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, was developed through ongoing dialogue with Armagh Observatory. Quaternion Quest resulted from work with Dunsink Observatory (The Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin) whilst Light Years from Here through The Centre for Astronomy NUIG, Galway.”
“These works explore ways laypersons attempt to understand scientific and political developments and how these articulate something of the political landscape. Failure and the unexpected are often integral to my processes, beginning projects from the stance of not knowing but seeking to understand. Dialogue, planning and long term engagement are key to this practice which evolves through both formal and metaphorical means. Many of my dialogical methods, interest in politics and pedagogy also extend from my roles as an art school lecturer and trade union rep.”
“With all these works I set myself the task of trying to understand difficult or abstract scientific problems using dialogue with astronomers through making, using the process of making to try to comprehend and discuss. When manipulating materials I have to physically and spatially grapple with various forces and phenomena such entropy, order, disorder and balance which can be understood both scientifically and politically. This making results in a variety of sculptural forms, whilst documenting the dialogical process of making, discussing, seeking feedback from scientists and modifying result in video works and animations.”
Aisling will also take over the GTG Instagram this weekend, with more insights into her work and inspirations!
Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, installation shot MAC International 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo Simon Mills, Curated by Hugh Mulholland, MAC Belfast Anne Barlow, Tate St Ives & Başak Şenova curator Crosssections
2) Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, installation shot MAC International 2018, mixed media, dimensions variable. Photo Simon Mills
3) Installation shot of Slices of Time in Extracts from Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law. Photo Simon Mills
4) Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, Ursa Major, installation shot MCAC gallery 1, mixed media, dimensions variable, curated by J. Baker
5 Another Day in Futile Battle Against the 2nd Law, Uma Upsillion, curated by J. Baker
Boolean Logic, Instillation shot and detail, salvaged timber, easel & drawing on Fabiano, dimensions variable, Glucksman, Cork, curated by F. Kearney
Boolean Logic, Instillation shot and detail, salvaged timber, easel & drawing on Fabiano, dimensions variable, Glucksman, Cork
Light Years From Here (622, Hirji: Albaset Dhanoon) , in Tulca, The Headless city, 2016, curated by Daniel Jewesbury
Idir Iarracht agus Teip / Between Attempt and Failure, Danlann Dillon Belfast, ladders, easel, salvaged timbers and clamps, dimensions variable, installation shot 2016
Quaternion Quest ‘The Bridge’, salvaged timber & clamps, dimensions variable, the LAB, Dublin 2014, curated by S. Barrett
Inspired by a fragment of an old song, Golden Thread Gallery director Peter Richards had an idea for an entirely new kind of exhibition, one that could overcome the distances forced between artists and curators worldwide by the Covid-19 pandemic. Not Alone is an exhibition in a bottle, containing eight new works from some of the leading artists on this island: Graham Gingles, Joy Gerrard, Sharon Kelly, John Rainey, Chloe Austin, Ailbhe Greaney, Megan Doherty and Clare Gallagher. Each has created a piece of art tiny or portable enough to fit inside a glass bottle, yet powerful enough to convey vast philosophies, stories and ideas, and endless possibilities of interpretation.
Packed up, the exhibition will now be sent out into our strange new world to international curators who will each mount the exhibition/s in their own homes. Installing and arranging the works in their space as they see fit, they will each create a new configuration, new context and new connections for the exhibition.
They will then pack Not Alone back into its bottle, and send it on to the next destination. At this moment in time it is on its way to Bologna, Italy, where the first curator, Chiara Matteucci, is waiting.
And after that, it will go to Rome, and then Amsterdam, and then… to destinations as yet unknown. It may never return, but we will follow its journey around Europe and share each iteration of the exhibition online.
Read the full story of the inspiration for this unique exhibition for our times, including more information on the artists and the artworks, in the presentation below.
GTG Director and curator Peter Richards is available for interview, as are the artists involved.
Notes to editors: Golden Thread Gallery (GTG) has played an important role in the provision of contemporary visual art in Belfast and Northern Ireland since it was established in 2001. Our mission is to present quality and innovative artistic programmes that capture the diversity of contemporary arts practice, and which engage, educate, challenge and inspire. We strive to build and engage the widest possible audience for contemporary arts, extending the reach of the arts, nurturing a deep understanding and enjoyment of current visual arts practice within the broader community, while developing, supporting and promoting the work of contemporary Northern Irish artists and visual arts practice. The GTG is a recognised charity, and our core funders are the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.
The Golden Thread Gallery is pleased to announce that we are offering a new paid internship for an individual who identifies as a member of the Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, supported by funding from the Community Foundation NI New Needs fund. Previous experience in the Arts sector is not required, and there is no age limit for applicants.
The intern will provide assistance and support across the Gallery’s programme and range of activities. Responsible to the Senior Management, this training role will include working with the gallery team and volunteers, liaising with artists and arts organisations, learning about arts funding in Northern Ireland and beyond, general administration including financial procedures, developing outreach activities, exhibition assistance, and visitor experience. The successful candidate will be expected to contribute to the work of the organisation, rather than taking on a purely shadowing role.
This role offers a fantastic training opportunity in one of Northern Ireland’s leading contemporary visual art galleries. For candidates, the internship could be either their first experience of a role in the Arts sector, or the ‘next step’ on from, for example, a volunteering role. Previous experience of working in the arts is not a requirement.
We intend this internship to provide mentoring and training for working in the arts for the successful BAME candidate, but also to work as an exchange, in which our intern can highlight to us what we need to do differently to reach BAME audiences and participants. Throughout the 6-month period as the intern gains experience and new skills across the gallery’s operations, they will also work with us to devise a series of workshops specifically targeted at BAME participants.
We will host a series of talks and discussions inviting people from across the Arts sector (visual arts, music, theatre, literature, dance) to see how we can work together to make the arts in Northern Ireland more accessible to BAME communities, and how we can attract BAME candidates to arts jobs in the sector. We do not have the expertise to do this on our own, as we do not presume to know the many specific needs and interests of this diverse and growing section of our population.
About the Golden Thread Gallery
Since its establishment in 2001, the Golden Thread Gallery (GTG) has built its reputation as a leading visual art provider through engagement with recent histories and re-imagined futures. As a contemporary visual art gallery, our purpose is to present innovative artistic programmes of high quality that embrace the breadth and variety of contemporary arts practice, and to develop, support and promote the work of contemporary Northern Irish artists and creative practice. Our motto with outreach has always been “Nothing about us without us”, meaning that we do not speak for communities, but rather work with them to devise projects that they want.
Gallery hours: Tuesday – Saturday
Working Hours: 32hpw. Hours determined by a monthly rota and will include evenings and weekends. Applicants must be flexible to the needs of the organization.
Duration of Internship: 26 weeks
Salary: £8.75ph (full time equivalent £18,200)
Leave: 28 days annual holiday pro rata (including Bank Holidays)
Contract: This is a 6-month training position. Please note that this appointment is subject to continuing funding/grant aid, and the contract may terminate earlier if funding is withdrawn.
Please note: this role is specifically intended for a member of the Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic communities.
Application Packs can be downloaded below or emailed on request.
Closing date for applications is midnight on Friday 4th September 2020. Applications must be emailed to email@example.com
Disclaimer: This document does not constitute an offer of employment nor forms any part of any contract.
Why is this opportunity specifically for people from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities?
No studies have been done in Northern Ireland to look at the cultural makeup of its workforces, but Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries was the first sociological study on social mobility in the cultural industries, released by Create London and Arts Emergency on April 16th, 2018. In it, it found that across the UK, in Museums, Galleries and Libraries only 2.7% of employees were from BAME backgrounds.
Given the tiny proportion of BAME communities in Northern Ireland, in order to help these communities #buildbackbetter we need to take direct action to include them in the Northern Irish visual arts sector.
Isn’t a BAME-only opportunity another kind of discrimination?
We don’t believe it is. This internship is designed to address an identified under-representation of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in certain roles in the Arts sector, particularly in Northern Ireland. This role is a paid training and development opportunity for a 6-month period, and is permitted under current legislation.
We know that BAME communities have been disadvantaged across every area of society, and in trying to reach diverse communities through our arts activities is it clear that this lack of representation is stopping us reaching BAME communities.
By taking this positive action to limit applicants to the internship to members of the BAME community, we will ensure that BAME needs and interests are given a voice in the Northern Irish visual arts sector.
I think the term ‘BAME’ is insulting and should not be used.
We understand that ‘BAME’ is seen by many people as an overly broad and clunky term, which doesn’t reflect the complexity of the many different categories that people may belong to, nor the many ethnicities and nationalities that it includes. We’re using it as an administrative term for brevity and clarity, as it is the most widely used term within the Arts sector and employment research. We hope to work with our successful candidate to find better language.
Do I need to have previous experience in the Arts sector to apply?
No, previous experience is not a requirement. We are looking for someone with a passion for the Arts who can make good use of this opportunity to develop their career, work with us to address issues around representation and bring us new ideas, but who may be at an early stage of their career or seeking a change of career. If you have transferable skills from other jobs and experience, an interest in the Arts and believe you could fulfil the role as described, you are welcome to apply.
Is there an age limit for candidates?
No, we welcome applications from candidates of any age for this role.
Today’s brand new GTG Workshop explores the fantastical, colourful art of iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. She is known as the ‘princess of polka dots’, because although she makes many different kinds of art, from sculpture, installation, paintings and drawings, they always feature lots and lots and LOTS of dots!
Kusama was born in Japan in 1929, and while she was still a child she began to experience vivid hallucinations which included vast fields of flowers like dots. The very earliest work that she made using dots was a drawing of a Japanese woman in a kimono, believed to be her mother, covered by dots – created when Kusama was only 10 years old.
She moved to America in the 1950s and became an important part of the avant-garde movement in New York. She was very productive over the next decade but because of widespread sexism in the art world, she struggled to gain widespread recognition and success. Kusama also had to watch some male artists get success and acclaim from copying her ideas – including Andy Warhol! Understandably, this was extremely frustrating and depressing for Kusama, and she moved back to Japan and didn’t make any new art for several years.
But in the late 1970’s she returned to making art from her new home in a hospital in Japan. Then in 1989 a very important exhibition looking back at her work and her huge influence on other artists was held in New York at the Center for International Contemporary Arts, organised by curator Alexandra Munroe which helped to bring Yayoi Kusama’s work back into the spotlight.
The grant will allow us not only to survive and re-open in these challenging circumstances, but to take a huge step forward in celebrating and protecting Northern Ireland’s legacy of contemporary visual art. The necessity of creating a permanent Collection here in Northern Ireland has been made even more clear to us through the Covid-19 crisis, which hit artists particularly hard. Building on our ten-year project of exhibitions and publications, ‘Collective Histories of Northern Irish Art’, which set out to create a useful historical context from which audiences and educators could engage with the stories of this place through the art of our time, we will now be able to establish the Golden Thread Collection with the highest standard of collection management systems and storage.
The Respond and Reimagine grant will also go towards the post Covid-19 adaptations required to re-open the Golden Thread Gallery safely, and to welcome back and rebuild our audiences, following almost six months of lockdown closure.
Art Fund’s Respond and Reimagine grants offer flexible and responsive funding designed to meet immediate challenges connected to the Covid-19 crisis and reimagine future ways of working. In the first round, 18 grants were given, from a total of 114 applications. Developed in consultation with museums and galleries, the grants meet needs in four priority areas of collections, audiences, digital, and workforce. They may also cover costs to support reopening, as well as encouraging creative and innovative projects as organisations look to reopen with fundamentally different operating models. Respond and Reimagine Grants will provide £1.5m in 2020 to support museums, galleries, historic houses, libraries and archives, and non-venue-based visual arts organisations, and is part of Art Fund’s £2m package of funding to support museums through crisis.
The deadline for the next round of Respond & Reimagine grants is 17 August 2020, and a final round will take place in the autumn.
The Board and Management of the Golden Thread Gallery would like to express our thanks to Art Fund for their generous support.
Saran McAvera, Deputy Director, Golden Thread Gallery
Golden Thread Gallery (GTG) has played an important role in the provision of contemporary visual art in Belfast and Northern Ireland since it was established in 2001. Our mission is to present quality and innovative artistic programmes that capture the diversity of contemporary arts practice, and which engage, educate, challenge and inspire. We strive to build and engage the widest possible audience for contemporary arts, extending the reach of the arts, nurturing a deep understanding and enjoyment of current visual arts practice within the broader community, while developing, supporting and promoting the work of contemporary Northern Irish artists and visual arts practice. The GTG is a recognised charity, and our core funders are the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.
Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by the 159,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year, which was won by St Fagan’s National Museum of History, Cardiff, in 2019, and through a range of digital platforms.
Origami is the traditional Japanese art of creating mini-sculptures by folding a flat, square sheet of paper – no scissors or glue required. The crane is one of the most famous designs, and one of the oldest known books about origami from 1797, called Hiden senbazuru origata (The Secret of Folding 1,000 Paper Cranes), contains instructions for making 49 different kinds of crane.
But origami is still being taken to new levels by contemporary artists – like this incredible life-size elephant created by artist Sipho Mabona from a single sheet of paper!
Eight years ago today on the 11th July, we opened Ambulatorio Belfast by Oscar Muñoz to the public at the Crumlin Road/Flax Street interface – meaning the interface itself was opened to the local communities for the first time in decades. Today we look back and celebrate the story of how this extraordinary temporary public art intervention within one of Belfast’s most contentious interfaces came to be.
How did the project begin?
Ambulatorio Belfast would not have happened without the Draw Down the Walls project: a collaboration between North Belfast Interface Network (NBIN), Lower Shankill Community Association (LSCA) and the Golden Thread Gallery (GTG).
Draw Down the Walls was created to imagine a city without barriers. North Belfast is no stranger to the news, but stories were generally focused on the negative and did not reflect the growth in positive relationships being built between communities. Bringing an international artist into the mix encouraged residents and visitors to see the area differently and provided opportunities for young people to have creative involvement in the social decisions that affected their lives.
Oscar Muñoz lives and works in Cali, Colombia. His work has been exhibited in numerous group shows including the Venice Biennale (2007), Prague Biennale (2005), and Cuenca Bienal (2004). In 2008 he had solo exhibitions at the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada; the Herzliya Museum, Israel; the Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA), London, UK; and the Museo Extremeño e iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, Badajoz, Spain.
Highly regarded as one of the most important visual artists working in Colombia today, Muñoz has captivated audiences around the world with the universal subject that underlies all of his work – the commonality of loss and remembrance.
His experience of working in another conflict zone put the local into an international context, providing a unique window of opportunity to spotlight the relationships that are being built between historically divided communities as we move towards more hopeful times.
Muñoz reinforces this: “My work today arises from my interest in understanding how a society comes to accept war – or rather, a dark and corrupted succession of wars over more than 50 years and which have not yet ended – as part of the routine of living, where both the past and the present are plagued with daily violent events which are persistently repeated”.
Creating the Ambulatorio Belfast
In February 2012, Oscar Muñoz was invited to visit Belfast and meet communities from both sides of the interfaces.
As a response to this visit he developed Ambulatorio, a site specific installation using aerial maps of North Belfast sealed under a layer of cracked glass.
Ambulatorio was initially created using aerial photography of Cali in Colombia. In Ambulatorio Belfast, Oscar transformed the ‘no man’s land’ between the two barriers that separate the Crumlin Road and Flax Street. The artist installed a unique view of north Belfast at ground level, involving a series of photographic tiles across 120 feet between the two interface gates.
The Project Partners
Peter Richards, GTG Director recalls ‘Through the gallery I have had the privilege of working with many incredible people on many wonderful projects. But Ambulatorio Belfast still stands out as a truly special moment – a coming together of the best of people, to make this happen, regardless of obstacles.
I have so many memories of the project, some very vivid – such as the whole install team, myself included, sat on sandbags weighing down bolts whilst the adhesive set, in the lashing rain, to level out the panels!
But rather than me go off into sharing all my memories, I’ve chosen an extract from one of the texts in the catalogue; a transcribed conversation between the key project partners Breandán Clarke from the North Belfast Interface Network Ian McLaughlin from the Lower Shankill Community Association and Ruth Graham from the GTG about the reasons for getting involved, how it connected with the work they do and how Ambulatorio Belfast impacted on the residents of interface areas.
Imagining a City Without Barriers
Ruth: I’m the Development Officer for Golden Thread Gallery and our involvement with Ambulatorio Belfast began with Draw Down the Walls. When Peter Richards, the Gallery Director, was invited to pitch an idea for the Cultural Olympiad as part of the London 2012 Festival, it made sense to start with Draw Down the Walls and invite an internationally respected artist to make a proposal that would mean something to residents of interface areas.
Ian: The Lower Shankill Community Association was formed in 2000. Part of the work we do is to motivate our community to get involved in the regeneration of their area and the decisions that affect their lives. I’ve been involved with LSCA at various levels from 2000 and have worked here since 2009. Ambulatorio Belfast came to the fore through working relationships developed from the North Belfast Interface Monitoring Group, leading to Draw Down The Walls which, in turn, led to our collective involvement in the project.
Breandán: North Belfast Interface Network is one of the driving forces behind Draw Down the Walls and by using some of the conversations within Draw Down the Walls as a starting point, we were able to widen the context of the project to imagine a city without barriers, where the barriers were recognised as not being solely physical. The opportunity to realise a project as part of the Cultural Olympiad was an ideal way to increase our impact on both a regional and international level. Ambulatorio Belfast allowed us to engage residents living close to an interface that has been closed for almost 30 years and look at how it could be temporarily opened to allow this project to happen. We needed something people could connect to during what is historically the most contentious time of the year. Creating an artwork with an international artist, being part of the Olympics and seeing a good news story from north Belfast were all factors in increasing residents’ confidence to participate. It also allowed residents to participate in community relations activity without really thinking about it: they were simply taking part in something together.
Ian: It was also an opportunity for our residents to connect with London 2012, which had not impacted on Northern Ireland as much as it had with other areas of the United Kingdom. By connecting with the project, ordinary community members felt a sense of pride through being “involved” in London 2012. We also used the project as an opportunity to open another gate for the duration of the exhibition, funnily enough in Columbia Street, to make it easier for our senior citizens to visit the project. This was actually requested by people who attended a consultation meeting before the artwork was installed.
Ruth: We found that the project introduced us to new partners and confirmed our view that high quality art can change the way people think about their communities.
Breandán: The feedback has been overwhelming, from local residents to media reports and reviews as well as being a live topic on Twitter and Facebook for the entire summer. The conversations generated within the community relations sector have gone to the most senior levels of government in Belfast and it has been benchmarked as a model of good practice by Belfast City Council & OFM/DFM. The project was launched by DCAL Minister Carál NíChuilín and supported by DSD Minister McCausland & DOJ Minister Ford, demonstrating that Draw Down the Walls, by uniquely using contextual art to engage communities in community relations activity, can affect real change.
Ruth: I spent a fair bit of time on the site so for me, the responses were first hand. Most of them were positive and most were visitors the local area. Comments ranged from, “I’m going to bring the wife to see this” to “why don’t they keep these gates open?” to “where’s the art?”. Most poignantly there was one visitor who had not been near the site since his brother was shot close by. He told the invigilators that it was important for him just to be in the space. The project encouraged discussion about the past, the artwork and about barriers in general. Art galleries can be silent – like libraries – with Ambulatorio Belfast there was contemplation AND talking.
Ian: We have had very positive feedback from everybody who was involved in the project and from those who visited Ambulatorio Belfast. There were also some very interesting stories from our elderly visitors who vividly remember a North Belfast without barriers.
Ruth: I felt a difference when I returned to the site after being away for a week or two. The site itself felt charged with layers of meaning and looking at Ambulatorio Belfast from a fresh perspective revealed an element of the project that can only be described as poetic. In terms of real difference – yes, communities are talking more about how easy it should be to open more interfaces and there seems to be a desire for meaningful change, but there is a long way to go.
Breandán: Change began as soon as we started to discuss the potential of the project. The difference was that there was a resolute undertaking from everyone that whatever we did, it had to be embedded in the North Belfast community. To realise the project we had to get access to a space that had been closed for 30 years, we had to broker keys, then, with consent from residents, have a doorway cut into a steel barrier, so the difference had already been made. The space has changed forever both physically and contextually and so has the relationship between the communities. The next step is to gather the learning from the process, evaluate what was achieved and look at what we could have done better. People are talking about the future of these structures and the conversation has also begun about how we can use art to “create the conditions to imagine a city without barriers” when we use it contextually and with relevance to the audience. The real ownership of Ambulatorio Belfast and its legacy are the residents of Ardoyne/Shankill-Woodvale.
Ruth: At the moment we are de-installing the artwork. It was never meant to be permanent because that would freeze the space in some sort of limbo where the exhibition would always be open but the road would always be closed. It is possible that we will develop more temporary projects on the same site as a way of building on the interest generated through Ambulatorio Belfast.
Ian: We should take this opportunity to build on the Ambulatorio project to create the conditions whereby interface barriers are consigned to the past. Draw Down the Walls is open!
Ambulatorio Belfast, commissioned with the London 2012 Festival in Northern Ireland, was well documented at the time, in the media:
Ambulatorio Belfast was a project which created a space that gave people the freedom to explore the artistic value of the project and allowed people to experience, and participate in, an artist’s vision of a city without barriers.
And it showed the power of art as a force with huge civic importance. We look back on it today, eight years on, with pride and knowledge of what communities coming together in Belfast can achieve.
In part 2 of his workshops on using computer coding to get creative, Robin Price takes us through how open processing works.
Once you have the basics of this down, the potential for making all kids of new art is really boundless!
Robin uses technology to create music and soundscapes as well as visual art, and to push the boundaries of our ideas about what different technologies can do. What do you think our machines and devices could do that would be new and different? Send us your pictures and ideas!
In August 2008 the Golden Thread Gallery hosted a ground-breaking participatory art project called Splattered. The project showcased range of contemporary urban artforms, with events run by the Trans Urban Arts Academy and aimed to encourage innovative crossovers between street art and more established forms of contemporary visual culture.
Splattered was an ambitious project combining contemporary urban art forms such as graffiti, VJing and low-tech filmmaking, with the added attraction of a paint-bombing event that linked with an exhibition of new work by Carlos Llavata: an internationally renowned artist & explosives expert, known for using fireworks and other kinds of explosives to create artworks that reflect on the human condition and the tension that lies between creativity and destruction.
It was an unbelievable opportunity to paint bomb an art gallery and join forces with an international explosives expert / artist. Participants listened to the sound of paint splatter and the newest beats as they took turns exploding with Carlos!
Bodyscapes – an exhibition of new work by Carlos Llavata (Spain) connecting audio-visual projections with live actions and dramatic undertones.
Graffiti– Filth & Duncan Ross with the Splat Pack transformed the walls of the Gallery using graffiti techniques.
And now… it’s your turn!
CREATE YOUR OWN SPLATTER ART AT HOME
There’s no getting around it, splatter art can be SUPER messy… but that’s part of the fun! So, you need to do a bit of preparation, and definitely ask a grown-up for permission and some help!
The very best way to do it is outside so you can spread your paper out on the ground. If you are inside, paint in a space that you can clean up easily – avoid anywhere with wallpaper or carpets – and wear an apron or old clothes.
The great thing about splatter is that you don’t even need a paintbrush… there are so many possibilities.
It’s really all about THE FLICK! If you’re indoors, use a smaller flick of your wrist. But if you’re outside, go big and use your arms!
Runny paint in pots (or cups or yoghurt cartons or bowls)
Paper (or cardboard or an old t-shirt or an unfolded cereal box)
A paintbrush (or a spoon or an old toothbrush)
Are you ready? Ok!
Dip your brush or spoon into the paint then FLICK your wrist to splatter the paint across the paper!
Keep splattering with different colours. Try splattering close to the paper, and then further away, for different effects.
Leave your picture lying flat until the paint is dry… unless you want to experiment and see what happens if you don’t!
Last week we said farewell to our wonderful Erasmus trainee Chiara Matteucci, as she was finally able to return home to Bologna, Italy after being stranded in Belfast during lockdown. We already miss her so much!
The Covid-19 pandemic restrictions kicked in soon after Chiara’s placement at the GTG began. In the strangest of circumstances she quickly became an invaluable part of the team, taking a pivotal role in delivering our online programme. In addition to carrying out a huge and overdue reorganisation of our exhibition archive, Chiara is our Instagram guru!
We asked her to write about her time with us, and as always it’s great!
By Chiara Matteucci
‘When I packed my clothes and I was ready to depart for my Erasmus + traineeship I wasn’t expecting that it would turn out in this way. Well, no one expected that the whole year 2020 would turn out this way, but, let me say, if you decide to go through a worldwide pandemic in a foreign country, far away from home (precisely 1416 miles), things are slightly amplified. I don’t blame anyone, there were a couple of opportunities to fly back home but I considered it safer to stay here in Belfast and keep going with my Erasmus traineeship at the Golden Thread Gallery.
So here we are, at the end of this unique experience, which has unfolded as the most useful experience I’ve ever had – and all the thanks go to the team in the Gallery who supported (and endured) me in these pandemic months. I can’t hide that I would have wanted to have a chance to explore Belfast better (I’m still wondering how drinking a pint of beer in a pub after work would be) instead of knowing only the route to the gallery and back home, which by the way I can do with my eyes closed now. And, of course, I missed all the beauty of seeing how to install and de-install an exhibition, talking with the artists during the vernissages and dealing with feedback of the public which, if you work with contemporary artworks, can often be incredibly controversial.
But if there’s something that I learned from this lockdown is to focus on the good things (the famous saying “looking at the glass as half full” has always turned out to be right) and, after four months of smart working, even though I exposed myself to an emotional rollercoaster, I can definitely say that I couldn’t have learned more work-wise. Even in a small and open listener team such as the Golden Thread Gallery, there are fixed roles. But during this period things have changed because we all have been exposed to something new, unexpected for the team and for me. Together, meeting after meeting (God bless Zoom), we have formulated a virtual response to the quarantine, trying to keep the Gallery alive against the uncertain and suspended reality created by the virus.
I clearly remember what the director Peter told me during one of our conversations about the art system – “If we were in a normal situation, probably me and you would never have met” and this is true. Someone could negatively interpret this sentence but in my case, this is where is hidden my half-full glass: the lockdown gave me the possibility to work in a unique (albeit virtual) environment, to be actively involved in the creation of content and I couldn’t be happier.
PS: Something forever is the title of a 2000 exhibition by Ian Charlesworth and Eoghan McTigue that the Golden Thread Gallery hosted in its old venue on the Crumlin Road. Have a look at the online archive, I proudly re-organised it!’
June 2020, Bologna via Belfast
We cannot wait to watch Chiara’s career in the arts develop, we know there will be so much success ahead for her. And we look forward to welcoming her back to Belfast for a visit someday soon so she can explore our brilliant city… and we can finally buy her that well-deserved pint!
Learn how to use computer coding to create art! Artist, composer and technology superstar Robin Price shows you how to design and code a beautiful rainbow, just like in our picture.
Creative coding is a type of computer programming in which the goal is to create something expressive instead of something functional. It’s an exciting and growing field where art and technology come together.
Coding can be used to create pictures, animation, poems, games and many different kinds of art.
Today’s online workshop by artist and photographer Simon Mills shows you how to do simple weaving using paper. Once you get the hang of the technique, you can create baskets, placemats, decorations or even very funky headwear!
With a little bit of help, this is an activity for all ages to enjoy.
This week we’re delighted to work with artist Ian Cumberland, as he shares a new film that looks back at his 2018 exhibition at the GTG, a common fiction. (Please note: the film has sound, but no voiceover).
Ian’s work in this exhibition explored new methods of painting for him; moving towards wider, more immersive installation experiences. Detailed portraiture was staged within the space and extended with fabric, neon and video work. This ‘staging’ framed the paintings in a context that is found within the imagery of the paint itself, bringing the viewer a different perspective of looking at his work. The paintings were expanded, the landscape of each work brought out and into the gallery.
About the artist
Born in Banbridge in Co Down, Ian Cumberland studied at The University of Ulster, where he was awarded the John and Rachael Turner Award for the most outstanding student in 2006. He has established a national and international reputation for his highly realistic portraits.
Ian is perhaps best known for his hyper realistic large oil paintings, including his award winning ‘Heads’ series. The surfaces of Cumberland’s paintings record the innate detail of flesh, pattern and texture in highly detailed precision.
2019 ‘A Common Fiction/Once removed’, Josef Filipp Gallery, Leipzig, Germany 2018 ‘A Common Fiction’, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland 2016 ‘Once Removed’, MCAC, Portadown, Northern Ireland 2012 Albemarle Gallery, London, UK 2008 Albemarle Gallery, London, UK
Selected Group Exhibitions
2019 JD Malat Gallery, London, UK ‘I’ll be your mirror’, Josef Filipp Gallery, Leipzig, Germany Royal Ulster Academy, Ulster Museum, Belfast, UK ‘SAGA’, Paintguide, Hong Kong 2018 ‘A Brand New Darkness’, Abridged, Galway Arts Centre, Ireland 2017 ‘Winter Open’, RUA Red, Dublin, Ireland ‘Delusional’, Jonathan Levine Projects, New Jersey, USA Royal Ulster Academy, Ulster Museum, Belfast, Northern Ireland 2016 ‘Portraits of a Nation’, Farmleigh Gallery, Dublin, Ireland 2015 ‘BP Portrait Award’ (Touring Exhibition), The National Portrait Gallery, London, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Ulster Museum, Belfast, UK 2014 ‘Presently’, MCAC, Portadown, Northern Ireland ‘184th Annual Exhibition’, The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland
Over the eight weeks of our Buy Local Art campaign we shared work by 53 artists from across Northern Ireland and Ireland! That’s only a small sample of the incredible array of artists creating work on this island – artists whose talent and creativity should be supported and celebrated, especially in hard times. We are delighted to have played a small part in doing that.
Although the Buy Local art page will now be archived (to make room for something new and exciting!) and we are no longer accepting submissions, all the artworks and links remain available to explore in this post. Many thanks to all the artists who contributed!
Buy Local Art Archive from October – December 2020
Artists deconstruct the taken-for-granted narratives of our lives, our histories and our beliefs. Here at the Golden Thread Gallery, we’re deeply connected to local visual artists, and we’ve seen over this past year how many of them faced losing livelihoods, as galleries, museums and shops closed, exhibitions and art fairs were cancelled, and many of the ways in which artists make a living alongside their creative practice were curtailed.
To support local visual artists, we want to share our online platform to showcase work that artists have for sale.
Over the next months, we invite local visual artists, makers and designers to send us an image of their work, along with a link to their website and/or retail platform through which it can be purchased.* We’ll share the images and links here on this page, and promote this ‘Buy Local’ campaign across our online channels to our growing audiences.
We’re fortunate in Northern Ireland to be home to myriad talented, imaginative and daring artists of all kinds, from sculptors to musicians, actors to potters, weavers to dancers, poets to painters. And while we all know that culture has a value far more than simply its price, right now the best way to protect and support artists is to make sure they can afford to keep creating.
So, artists: please check out the instructions below and send us your work to share! And anyone looking to help our cultural landscape survive a very tough year, or for a special gift, or simply for something beautiful – browse the wonderful artwork!
Technical Requirements for Artists
Please submit only one sample image of your work as a digital file, along with your name, full contact details and a link to your website or social media (e.g. Instagram) and/or retail link.
Your contact details will not be shared publicly.
Images must be submitted as JPEGS
Images must not exceed 1080 x 1080 px at 72dpi
Maximum file size is 70KB
URL for your website and/or retail link must be direct, correct and functioning – please check before you send.
Please note: we will be updating the page and adding new artists twice a week, therefore please be patient if your image and link takes a few days to appear.
We will not accept any hard copy works, e.g. prints or photographs.
*Terms & Conditions
The Golden Thread Gallery is not providing a sales system or handling any transactions directly. Artists are responsible for all sales.
The Golden Thread Gallery accepts no responsibility or liability, financial or otherwise, for any transaction made between an artist and buyer via this promotion, including technical or security issues at the point of sale, delivery delays, returns, damage or quality issues.
Artists are responsible for all their own transactions, including secure payment process, delivery and communicating with buyers.
Artists intending to sell their work must ensure they are using a safe, secure and reliable payment system which the buyer understands and accepts, and which complies with consumer protection regulations.
The Golden Thread Gallery is not responsible for communication between artist and buyer.
The Golden Thread Gallery receives no commision, financial stake or benefit from any transaction that takes place due to this promotion, nor do we receive any payment of any kind from the artists featured.
Submission, acceptance, acknowledgement and publication of an Artist image and link in this promotion does not constitute any form of contractual agreement between an artist and the Golden Thread Gallery, nor does it constitute any agreement to promote an artist’s work in the future.
Golden Thread Gallery's unique touring exhibition, Not Alone, created for our strange, new, transformed world continues on its journey in 2021. With isolation measures, travel restrictions and quarantine rules affecting art exhibitions and collaborations in every way, GTG Director Peter Richards...