Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Art: Traditional craftwork but not as you know it

After spending a couple of weeks on Belfast Festival goings-on, I thought it might be a good idea to do a round-up of what’s on elsewhere.



One of the best shows I’ve seen just recently, which unfortunately has only a couple of days to go, is by The Textiles Guilds in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Forget all those preconceived notions about what patchwork, weaving and embroidery are and let this wonderful collection of work introduce you to the exciting world of contemporary needlecraft of all sorts.

Find everything from plastic patchwork, embroidered portraits and newspaper shoes to silk painting and a fabric Noah’s Ark. It’s a truly innovative and imaginative collection while still presenting traditional skills.

Meanwhile, the Emer Gallery at 467 Antrim Road, Belfast, is currently showing new works by Antrim artist Noel Murphy. It’s primarily concerned with nature — as a response to living in the country, an interest in Darwin’s theory of evolution and because of his daughter’s intense love of wildlife. In vigorous expressionistic line and colour, Murphy captures fruit, harvest and, possibly his favourite, the goldfinch. The compositions vary from the fairly formal, pattern-conscious Large Harvest Field, to the very loose, free Darwin’s Nest. The exhibition continues until November 20.

An exhibition with a difference in the Old Museum Arts Centre gives us The MAC – The Story so Far, which showcases the design progression of what is to be Northern Ireland’s “flagship contemporary visual and performing arts venue”.

Planned to open in 2011 it will include two theatres, 1,000 square metres of galleries, workshops, rehearsal rooms and a dance studio as well as a bar and cafe. It all sounds, and looks, quite something. In fact it will be, and I quote, “the biggest purpose-built visual art space created in Northern Ireland in generations”.

Finally, a bit of a coup for the James Wray Gallery, of James Street South, who have scored Brian Ballard’s first one-man show in Northern Ireland for several years. As well as some bold, colourful still-life images, this exhibition offers us some fairly sombre Belfast street architecture like Waring Street and Library Street, and one or two nicely lit female nudes.

When he’s not being sombre, Ballard can make the canvas zing with some wonderful colour in pieces like Bottle With Poppies or Blue Jug with Books. This show continues until November 15.

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Wanderlust may be too powerful to resist. Planning a long holiday will be a pleasant diversion from work. You don't have to have fancy accommodation. You're willing to rough it for an adventure, but you do want to get good value for your money. Doing some research into the best places to stay and eat will pay off handsomely. Take along a friend who is free spirited and eager to explore unfamiliar vistas. The two of you will make great travelling companions.More