Thursday 24 June, 12-6pm
Wed- Sat 12-4pm; Late Night Art: 12-9pm
Selection of work by BA Hons Fine Art students from University of Ulster’s closed Degree Show
Chloe Brown, Niall Burns, Mya Darragh, Dreambean, Nina Geary, Kate O'Neill, Scott Taylor, Leona Whelan
Ends 17 July 2021
Like everywhere else, the degree shows at Ulster University had to be kept behind closed doors. What normally pulls large crowds and is a fixture in the cultural calendar for many- parents, relatives and friends of art students, artists and art lovers, students, art buyers and the curious, plus the free booze tours....Nothing.
This is- and of course we all understand the restrictions- very sad and especially disappointing for the graduating artists, who had a tough year, mostly working from home.
This ad-hoc project wants to showcase some artists and open the doors at least slightly to the public to see the newest generation of artists. This project shows a personal selection of ideally eight artists, and by no means intends to give a comprehensive overview of the diverse work and subjects of this year's degree.
One of the central themes - and one which goes to the origins of art making- is the question so directly addressed in DreamBean's publication: WHO THE FUCK AM I?
A search which centres around the private and personal and expands to the natural and built environment, be it in terms of non-binary gender association, the construction or deconstruction of personal identity as well as our nature and transhuman life. This is visually translated not in speculative ways, but closely linked to personal experiences, feelings and traumata. The setting or places for these searches are the artist's home, town or surrounding landscape, their immediate environment.
The conditions for art making have been difficult this year to put it mildly, depressing and a struggle. Like for many other professionals, artists couldn't access their workspaces/ studios for most of the time, and if so, only under severer safety restrictions. Life and work retreated to the home, for the art students here, to their room at their parents house.
Did Covid leave a watermark on the work? Maybe it is too early to state this and to interpret the work solely under that aspect. But the extraordinariness of the Covid situation, added to the ongoing concerns about the environment and social/political justice, will have left a mark.
This project with eight artists is a reissue, it doesn't aim to copy parts of the original degree show, but a shortened and altered version of a subjective selection.
Make up your own mind- and be impressed.
To see (parts) of the BA degree show online click here.
Many Thanks to Aisling O'Beirn, without her support this project wouldn't have been possible.
About the artists
DreamBean- installation view
'My art explores the connection of the
internal and external landscape through a queer gaze, questioning, ‘what
does it mean to be a creative adult?’ Making art that is anti-realism,
pseudo-naive, I aim to create art that is
ironically confessional around topics that I ‘wasn’t allowed to talk
about’ growing up in rural catholic Ireland. I approach art perceiving
it as both spiritual and therapeutic, allowing the viewer to enter into
an ethereal world that explores childhood memories,
trauma, nostalgia, and identity. The portrait of an anxious queer self,
manifests in my art through layering seen in the use of repetition,
mixed matched textures and chaotic patterns and colour. In my art, I
blur the boundaries between painting, sculpture/lens
and printmaking in order to create a playful practice that is
Text: The artist
Kate O'Neill- installation view, degree show
Kate O'Neill is a multidisciplinary artist exploring space within cities through
drawing, sculpture, and installation. She investigates the physicality of
architecture through material and theoretical approaches. Influenced by feminist geography, her practice considers spatial
structures and attempts to reconfigure space. By breaking down the
inside/outside boundaries within a city’s visual landscape, it becomes
obscene. To be obscene is to be beyond human control
and categorisation. By deconstructing the city, the artist hopes to defy the
patriarchal classification of the ‘masculine city’.
Niall Burns- instalalion view, degree show
Niall Burns is a sculpture lens based artist who tackles environmental
issues within his practice, such as sustainability, roadkill and humans
disconnect with nature. He views himself as an eco-artist, using photography,
drawing and sculptural techniques to create a reflective and
sustainable art practice.
Living within the Mourn Mountains, a hotspot for tourists, he has seen first-hand the impact they can have upon the environment and the animals that live there. This has caused him to use his work to raise awareness to the impact mankind has, by showcasing the dead roadkill to confront man about their actions.
'The artworks I have created act as a document of the dead. My work process follows a personal relationship and connection to nature. I travel to tourist areas, exploring how tourism has affected the local landscape. Most of the time on my journeys I come across a victim of roadkill. When I have found these animals, I begin to photograph the bodies and then draw the forms I found with quick expressive motions, as sometimes I only see the animal forms for a matter of seconds. The drawings then are turned into sculptural forms. However, I do not typically return to where I found the body but on the day of discovery I collect as many sticks and debris from the scene, to incorporate within the work. These materials I gather act as a witness to the crime and they typically reflect the distress of the location by being broken and torn themselves. The drawings will continue to grow over time as I find dead and mangled animals, that have been victims of roadkill in the rural landscape. Until these issues are resolved, my work will continue to grow to confront mankind on their actions'
Text: Niall Burns
Nina Geary_ installation view, degree show
Nina Geary is a French multimedia artist based in Belfast. Her work focuses on the constrained nature of the embodied state and its effect on the psyche. In her performance work, the artist writes fragments of inner monologue onto her body as a ritualistic externalisation of thought, confronting the viewers with their own thought processes. Her sculptures are tailored to human proportions, enabling the spectator to project themselves into them. Nina Geary uses space to create an intimate, confined environment in which she plays sound and/or video work, to involve both visual and auditory senses, producing an immersive experience for the viewer, where emotions can be felt without fear.
'My works speak of a profound discomfort with the way the body is conditioned to process emotion. It explores the notion of shedding and renewal, wanting to rid oneself of identifying factors to make way for a blank canvas, a body that is not lived in and therefore doesn’t have the same learnt responses to fear. It implies the vulnerability of that new body - as there is no more vulnerable being than the one that is just born. It explores the processes we undergo more specifically when we mourn, the different stages we go through when letting go of a moment, a living thing, a feeling.'
Text: Nina Geary
Chloe Brown- installation view, degree show
'I am a lens-based artist who works primarily with photography and video installation which explores the relationship between women, space, and ideas of femininity, particularly within the context of the post conflict environment of Northern Ireland. Ideas of physical space plays a key role in my work, discussing the relationship between people suffering from traumatic memories and experiences and, space that carries this trauma and act as a physical representation of it; There is a blurring of the boundaries between the self, and other the physical and the emotional. Ideas of gendered spaces within traditional Irish culture and the expectations of women as confined to domestic spaces are something I often reference within my work, using audio and visual cues to evoke feelings of the domestic. My work attempts to discuss how the trauma and history of a place can impact the lives of women in more ways than we may think, tackling the subjects of grief and mourning, breaking down traditional ideas of women whether that be of them as fragile and pure, or as keepers and inhabitants of only domestic space and the related feelings of entrapment and suffocation that comes with these expectations and the interconnective relationship between body and space both physically and emotionally.'
Text: Chloe Brown
'My work seeks to expand a painting practice rooted in the personal
dreamscape of bizarre characters and situations. Playfulness totters at
the edge of a peculiar world of human and animal encounters. I am
interested in how making art informed by experience
can allow the personal to cross realms into the magical. Where houses
burn from teapot steam and characters hover in an abyss. Trees grow
upside down as enlarged birds peck at writhing snakes. Where a sense of
wonder waltzes in the negative spaces. Using
motifs such as these, my work takes a ‘post diary' formation, that homes
my work somewhere between the private and public showcasing of ferly
Over lockdown, I began thinking about magical gateways, journeying, and the spiritual comforts these ideas can provide. I began exploring the notions of supernatural liminality and trekking the portals between childhood comforts and adulthood. A hunt where we gather symbols of childhood, befriend insects and search between characters. These days my practice revolves around these values of bewilderment and creating a web of curiosity for myself. Characters and animals rally together to keep the nostalgia alive. The portal of strange enchantment is revived, forever evolving. Throughout my practice, the depiction of tableau scenes of interactions -from traditional paper doll templates colliding with intriguing figures to animals, plants, and structures alive with possibility – intends to keep the viewer gripped with wonder.'
Text: Mya Darragh
Scott Taylor- performance still
Scott Taylor is a video based artist, who focuses on experimental film, alongside photography and sculptural based projects. He is heavily influenced by nature, literature and mythology which are components in each of his films and photography series. His narratives take the form of old 8mm footage, in short montaged bodies of work. A collection of moments laid out into an unusual story.
'When creating each film, it begins with the intention of capturing a moment in time and space. Whether this be the light rays piercing through the trees or the waves crashing against a pier. Slowly over time, these moments take the form of a visual based narrative which is always open to viewer interpretation. I prefer this, as it creates a connection between myself and the viewer, as well as the work. Over the course of this year, I came to the realisation that my work had transformed into a mental journal of my very own. Through my films, I documented my experience and response to the outside world. As for my photography, through the use of sheets and masks inspired by forest folklore, I responded to the feeling of isolation that rippled globally during the pandemic. Despite what form of media I used, my work became a form of therapy. A means of capturing a feeling, breaking it apart and putting it back together again.'
Text: Scott Taylor
Leona S Whelan is a feminist sculpture-lens based artist residing in Belfast. Primarily working with photography and producing binocular-based videos that are designed to create a sense of disorientation. Although a sculpture /lens-based artist there is always a painterly quality to the work that is reminiscent of Baroque and Dutch Still Life paintings. Whelan’s work is heavily based on the feminine figure and how it is manipulated within a primarily domestic space. Moreover, her Sculpture works are not just a manipulation of her figure but a manifestation and an extension of it.
“I recognized at an incredibly early stage that I was not a painter however through my work, be it sculpture or lens there is always a painterly quality often based off the dramatic nature of Baroque paintings my sculptures as well as my film and lens work have always depended on the use of lighting be it natural or artificial. Through my body of work, I am constantly challenging size zero culture stereotypes through the range of mediums and techniques I have been taught. It is with this critical thinking that my sculpture works are often heavy and disfigured which further conforms to my need to push the boundaries of the figure and expands its limits. My work challenges the boundaries of the human figure and strives to challenge the nature of a size zero culture as well as pushing the limits of what is considered figurative. The quote, “Beauty lies within the eye of the beholder”, (Plato) is extremely personally to me as beauty is subjective and it is with this critical thinking that I pushed to create work that was slightly subjective but still holds a figurative meaning. Through my sculpture lens-based work the art becomes an extension of my own figure and I regard it as a manifestation of a self-portrait.
Text: Leona Whelan