GTG Revisits ‘Better Society’


Each week during lockdown, GTG Director Peter Richards revisits one of our past exhibitions on Instagram and shares his personal reflections on the show and its contexts, then and now. This week he looks back to 2000 and the exhibition Better Society, which brought together work by Phil Collins, Daniel Jewesbury and Colin Darke.


Better Society 

Phil Collins, Colin Darke, Daniel Jewesbury

21st September – Sat 28th October 2000

I wouldn’t have started from here

“It’s increasingly appropriate to quote this phrase from Daniel, especially when writing any reflection on our past programme; or indeed, any History of Northern Irish Art; or come to think of it, any history as we understand it, at this moment in time.

Better Society brought together three distinct projects/bodies of work, by the three artists Phil, Daniel and Colin. Phil had just returned from a residency in L.A, Colin from Finland and Daniel, I can’t remember right now, but he was always somewhere or other. Each had developed works in response to observations on related societal models. 

The exhibition didn’t ever set out to offer a model what a Better Society could be, rather it offered an opportunity to confront ways we were engaging with the dominant socio-political models of the day. That proposed action seems ever more relevant today.

Preamble

So, I’ve started from here on this occasion … on another day it could have started from somewhere other…  I’d begun to be involved with the programming of the Golden Thread Gallery after having had a solo exhibition ‘Another Something Other’ there in 1999. 

The gallery was started by Gail Prentice in 1998 as an artist-led project. At the time of this exhibition the gallery was not receipt of any annual funding, it had no paid staff, rather it received sporadic project support and occasional sponsorship. The gallery had a different purpose and played a role different to its current configuration.  Though many of the motivations that informed its approach to programming continue to resonate.

It was a time when we worked predominately with our peer group – fortunately for us, we thought it was a great peer group, and a great time for visual art in Belfast. It felt like Belfast’s Art scene was poised to … or at least in a good place from which to… be at what now feels like a good moment in a perpetual cycle of endlessly differed potential. 

We were working with our knowledge of what our peer group was doing; what they were being paid to do elsewhere; and then creating opportunities to present this work to local audiences. We looked to set up new narratives, dialogues between works, whilst maintaining space for all works to be engaged with on their own. 

Subjects for, approaches to, exhibitions and exhibition making, primarily grew out of conversations. They tended to begin with an invitation to artists to come together with us and test a conversation further over coffee. I remember having lots of coffee with lots of artists…”

Peter Richards, June 2020


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!