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!
Golden Thread Gallery is delighted to announce our unique touring exhibition, Not Alone, created for our strange, new, transformed world. With isolation measures, travel restrictions and quarantine rules affecting art exhibitions and collaborations in every way, GTG Director Peter Richards...