Belfast Telegraph

Home’s no longer where the art is as curtains are closed

by Natalie Irvine

A Victorian house that had been uniquely converted into a popular private art gallery closed its doors this week.

Space Delawab, an art exhibition space set in the Ashley Avenue home of Keith Winter, Ciara Hickey and Claire Hall, was ‘laid to rest’ in spectacular fashion last Friday, July 23.

Keith, an artist himself said: “We transformed the house into a gallery in 2008, on the idea of taking the concept of your house one step further into the public realm. We were lucky enough to find the house to do it.”

During its two year life, the house has been the venue for well over 20 exhibitions, displaying work from up-and-coming local artistic talent as well as international work. Artistic ‘residencies’ were also commonplace at the house.

At the final ‘Death to Delawab’ exhibition last weekend, contributions to the closing show even arrived from Turner prize nominee Christine Borland. Considering the curators or venue never received funding for the upkeep or the opening shows the gallery produced — what was achieved was quite a feat.

Keith explains what life was like living in the house on a typical exhibition day: “We would be sitting in the living room having a cup of tea and a chat between ourselves — a couple of hours later artists and lecturers would arrive and a discussion would ensue amongst the forefront of artistic talent in Northern Ireland. The next thing we know a band has set up in the corner to play a gig for the 150 people who would turn up to come and view the art. I have even witnessed a lecturer from Queen’s University Belfast dancing on our mantlepiece during one of those shows.

“So it was important for us to plan a good ‘death’ to the space, and we brought a lot of artists back who had exhibited before. One of the artists performing was Anne Quail, who, in her piece, dressed and behaved like she was at a wake throughout the evening. It did freak quite a few people people out, it felt so real.”

Space Delawab began its life in one of the bedrooms of the house. Over the years, the house itself became the gallery, as drama, music, painting, photography and digital art were allowed to flow throughout the building.

Art of all manners was exhibited throughout the entire house and garden — even the driveway, porch, and toilet were not spared.

Keith adds: “The reaction to the house and what we did here has been overwhelming. Some people have even told me this house healed them. So many people felt a belonging to this space.”

It is hoped a publication will be made of the two year reign Space Delawab had as ‘the most unconventional and inspirational place in Belfast’.

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