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Ulster's best make for mesmerising exhibition

135th RUA annual exhibition The Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast Until January 8, 2017

By Elizabeth Baird

As always, the Royal Ulster Academy show is exciting. And so it should be, full of the best Northern Ireland's artists have to offer. It's overflowing with imagination, talent and experimentation - quite mesmerising to walk around and not just observe pretty pictures.

This year there is over £7,000 in prize money, which will be awarded to the exhibitors who show merit in their particular field.

I always find this exhibition a real joy to walk around as there is something for everyone - abstract, pastel, oil, watercolour, large, small and those enigmatic ones which need to be puzzled over for a while.

Martha by Angela Belli is a beautiful piece of painting, as is Wolf by Paul Bell.

It is especially good to see the number of sculptural pieces selected, particularly in the invited artists section, with the likes of Robert Ballagh, Rosie McGurran, Denise Ferran and Lucy Turner, all perhaps better known for their two-dimensional works.

As always there are a number of stunning portraits including Remember Me, drawn with skill and tenderness by David McDowell, or a totally opposite approach from Eleanor McCaughy - a head, barely visible between swathes of thick, bright paint.

Not so many traditional landscapes this year - RT Killen perhaps and Denise Ferran with Autumn Trewbraghmmn. And Chris Dearden's Life Source, a big, bold, bright active piece of work - his style transformed over the years.

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