Belfast Telegraph

Visual Art 17/04/09

Billy: Joan Alexander
Billy: Joan Alexander

By Liz Baird

Although PLACE at 40 Fountain Street, Belfast, is all about architecture, and has been open for some time, I can’t believe that I have never mentioned it in this column.

Described as the Architecture and Built Environment Centre for Northern Ireland, it is the public face of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects and funded by Belfast City Council and the Arts Council. Situated in a prime city-centre location it provides “a flexible space for exhibitions and events on all aspects of the built environment”.

Just how broad this remit is is well illustrated by the current photographic exhibition ‘Home Front’, which deals with, through individual portraits, different concepts of home, considering it as “keeper of physical and emotional elements of self”.

The photographer is Joan Alexander and the idea sprang from the experiences of her friend, Edna, who went from home to hospital to residential care without ever being able to collect her possessions or say goodbye to her house.

These circumstances were imposed on Edna and that concept triggered this exhibition. There is no photograph of Edna but all the sitters for these photographs were at a stage of life “where significant changes occur”. Each portrait is accompanied by photographs of elements of their home as well as extracts from conversations about what home meant to them.

Some are sad, some wistful, some poignant, some resigned but they all provide serious food for thought. There is Miriam who has “no happy memories” or Tony who is resigned to blindness in a strange place, or Evelyn who dwells upon the death of her partner — all sad little snippets from life, all disturbingly real.

PLACE tries to have an exhibition every month and the next show, planned for May, will feature Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

elizabethobaird@googlemail.com

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