Buon viaggio Chiara!


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!


Something forever

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!

GTG Artists Present: Ian Cumberland


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.

Solo Exhibitions

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


GTG Artists Present is funded by the Community Foundation NI

GTG Revisits ‘Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now’


While we’re closed, we wanted to take a look back at some of the highlights of our exhibitions over the past year, and share the activity sheets for you to download and print at home. Please peruse some incredible art, then send us pictures of your own creations!


Last August the Golden Thread Gallery brought an incredible exhibition of contemporary Japanese art to Belfast. ‘Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now’ was co-curated by GTG Director Peter Richards, the Director of Art Center Ongoing in Tokyo Nozomu Ogawa and Belfast based Japanese artist, Shiro Masuyama. The exhibition included work by 11 different artists, with a broad spectrum of styles and approaches to contemporary art making.

Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now included spectacular live art events. Artist Takahiro Suzuki continued his global “生きろ (IKIRO) ” (meaning “Be Alive”) project in a durational performance in our Castlecourt pop-up space.

Takahiro Suzuki in Castlecourt Shopping Centre, Belfast, August 2019

You can watch a video of IKIRO on our Facebook page here or this one taken by the Power family on a visit to Castlecourt here!

IKIRO by Takahiro Suzuki in Belfast, August 2019

In Golden Thread Gallery One artist Yusuke Asai created a 17 metre long mud mural on-site, painting right on the gallery walls. He used soil and clay that he gathered here in Northern Ireland to paint his fantastical creatures and images of nature.



Shiro Masuyama’s installation work ‘Tokyo Landscape 2020‘ included an intricate motorised light ascending and descending over water to illuminate rows of plaster figures. Take a look at this video of the installation by Shiro.

Tokyo Landscape 2020 2018, Shiro Masuyama
Tokyo Landscape 2020 2018, Shiro Masuyama

Kyunchome’s video documentary ‘Making the Perfect Donut‘ begins with the idea of combining an American type donut with a sata andagi, an Okinawan donut, to create the ultimate deep-fried treat. But the piece explores the complicated history of American and Japanese relations, and the protests at the continuing presence of American military bases in Japan.

Still from Making the Perfect Donut 2017-2018, Kyunchome
Still from Making the Perfect Donut 2017-2018, Kyunchome

The exhibition also included video works by Takuro Kotaka, Hikaru Suzuki, Marico Aoki and Atsushi Yamamoto.

Atsushi’s piece was actually filmed in Belfast in 2014, during his residency with Flax Studios. In his video he walks around the city with his friends, dressed in a Japanese giant costume, responding to the mythology of Irish giant Finn McCool.

Atsushi Yamamoto and friends, 2014, Belfast
Spirit Disco 2017, Marico Aoki
The Village’s Bid for UFO 2017, Takuro Kotaka

Artist Fuyuka Shindo has also spent time in Belfast, having studied at Belfast School of Art and been artist-in-residence in Flax Studios. Conducting research in museums and archives, she looks at objects such as traditional costumes and old photographs.

Her finished pieces incorporate elements from both past and present, through imagery, materials used or techniques employed.

Artworks by Fuyuka Shindo in the GTG, August 2019. Photograph by Sophie Daly.
Who is this? 2015, Fuyuka Shindo

Midori Mitamura has also worked in Belfast at Flax, and is now based in Tokyo. She makes interactive installations using ready-mades and projected images.

Her installation ‘Green on the Mountain’ was inspired by a family photograph that she found in Europe.

Green on the Mountain 2003-2019, Midori Mitamura. Photograph by Sophie Daly.

With Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now, we offered our visitors in Belfast the opportunity to experience aspects of Japanese life through the eyes of some of its most talented contemporary artists. Their work explored Japan’s distinct cultural issues in addition to drawing out the artistic parallels that unite creative practices across international boundaries, allowing the exhibition and visitors to reflect on the similarities that exist within our own cultures.

Read a review of the exhibition by art writer Slavka Sverakova here.

Please download and print our activity sheets to create your own artworks inspired by the exhibition, and send us pictures!

GTG Virtual Family Art Workshops & Junior Gallery!


While we can’t hold our regular free family art workshops in the gallery, we thought we could share some of the exhibition art activities we’ve created over the past year, along with flashback virtual visits to those exhibitions. From tomorrow on our website you can remind yourselves of the artists whose work we have shown, and download and print the activity sheets!

Starting with a special award for Mums to celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday! You can download our special Rosette design to colour in here, to make sure your Mum knows that she’s the best.

On Monday we’ll take a look back at the incredible Noise of Silence: Japanese Art Now exhibition that we held last year – up above is a reminder of the amazing mud murals by Yusuke Asai, painted live in the Gallery right onto the walls!

Yusuke painting with mud! August 2019

We want keep our Junior Gallery going too, showcasing work by your budding artists. If they’ve painted a picture, done some drawing or colouring in, made crafts or just gone crazy with your own artwork, please send us photos. Look how empty it is – we need your help!

Email them to us at info at gtgallery.co.uk or share them with us on social media. Tell us the artists name and age too. You can use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Tag us in and use the hashtags #GTGBelfast and #GTGJuniorGallery We’ll add their work to our virtual Junior Gallery online using technological wizardry.

Check back tomorrow for the first virtual exhibition workshop!

Celebrating IWD at the GTG

Happy International Women’s Day! We are celebrating by looking back at some of the exceptional women artists who have exhibited at Golden Thread Gallery in the past. We’re proud to have ensured that 50% of our exhibitions over our history have been by women, and glad to play our part in the improving representation of female artists.

Our brilliant volunteers have written about a few selected women whose exhibitions here in Belfast at the GTG directly challenged sexism and patriarchal values. Starting with the extraordinary Barbara Hammer, as chosen by Katharine Paisley.

“Hammer is considered the foremost pioneer of queer feminist cinema. For over 40 years her work has been challenging the straight, male-dominated iconography of the female body and sexuality. Through her films, performances, photography and installations Hammer rejects the male definitions and representations of women in film and photography. She negates the male gaze and celebrates lesbian desire through the active participation of women, countering the passive roles afforded to them in traditional cinema. Other past works have explored queer histories, such as the biographies of the artists Hannah Hoch and Claude Cahun.

Barbara Hammer exhibited 3 film works in the Golden Thread in November 2018 as part of Outburst Queer Arts Festival, Dyketactics! (1974), No No Nooky TV (1987) and Bedtime Stories I, II, III (1988).”

The newest member of the GTG team, Chiara Matteuci, has written about two radical women we were thrilled to welcome to the GTG: Sarah Maple and Margaret Harrison.

“Margaret Harrison is an engaged artist, always in the forefront of addressing social concerns and political controversy. She’s one of the founders of the London Women’s Liberation Art Group and she’s probably best known for the closing of her exhibition in 1971 by the police due to her sexually charged works.

In 2015 the Golden Thread Gallery hosted Harrison’s first solo exhibition on the island of Ireland. We are them, they are us included several seminal works, created at various stages of her career, alongside a number of more recent pieces. This exhibition explored many of the themes common in Harrison’s work, like her concern with the property rights and land ownership, and the issues of gender inequality and the objectification of women in popular culture.

Harrison has always explored the transformations of our age, from the women’s labour within the installation Greenham Common (1989), where she recreates a portion of the perimeter fence from Greenham Common military base, to the consideration of female gender in the contemporary society. In Scents of Identity (1993) young, often ethic minority, cosmetics salesgirls are depicted in polished, glossy department store surroundings.

Meanwhile, in He’s Only a Bunny Boy (1971), she draws Hugh Hefner posing proactively in a corset, stockings and bunny ears.

This hilarious artwork was part of her first solo exhibition, the one which the police closed after only one day. Things have changed since then, but not the way Harrison question the world, always with humour and a rebel gaze. 

And speaking of rebels… Sarah Maple is a visual artist based in the UK. Her mixed identity (half Britannic and half Islamic) is one of the major themes investigated by the artist, always with a wonderful (for someone outrageous) spontaneity. She’s currently taking part at the exhibition “Don’t ask me where I’m from” at Aga Khan Toronto dedicated to migration.

Your Body (2007)

In 2014 her artworks were exhibited at the Golden Thread Gallery. God is a Feminist was a journey through Maple’s diverse, engaging, challenging and sometimes controversial practice.

Her artworks are very current and avant garde, especially those related to the subject of feminism: just have a look at the painting “Menstruate with pride” from 2010-11, and think about the current issue of the tampon tax! “

Menstruate With Pride (2010-11)

We’re looking forward to presenting our audiences with more outstanding exhibitions by women artists in 2020/21, including Joy Gerrard‘s first major solo exhibition in Belfast, ‘A Crowd Exists’, coming up in May.