Belfast Telegraph

Petrol can artwork could spark a £20,000 prize in Mac's visual art competition

Shortlist revealed as competition heats up for Mac gong

By Amanda Ferguson

It's one of the biggest arts prizes ever offered in Northern Ireland.

And two of our own strongest talents are in the running to earn the prestigious £20,000 prize with work as diverse as painting and contemporary installations involving lighter fuel.

Colin Darke and Dougal McKenzie, both based in Belfast, have been shortlisted for the Mac's inaugural contemporary visual art prize – Mac International – one of the biggest art prizes in Ireland and one of the few major awards of its kind in the UK.

The pair are hoping their sculpture and painting will win the biennial competition which attracted over 1,000 entries from more than 30 countries.

An international judging panel also selected Roxy Walsh, Mike Harvey and Mairead McClean, who were born in Northern Ireland but are now based in London, for the 24-strong shortlist.

They sit alongside Darek Fortas and Maria McKinney from Dublin and artists from Belgium, England, Finland, Germany, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Scotland, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and USA.

The winner will be announced on October 30.

Last night Colin Darke told the Belfast Telegraph he was thrilled to be in the running for his lighter fluid and petrol can installations.

Another piece of his work, using rows of apples to depict an Irish flag, will also be exhibited but are not part of the prize entry.

"It is a real honour considering the number of people to enter," he said.

"Previously I made work about the Paris Commune (1871) so this new work relates to misogynistic propaganda attacking women on both sides.

"Buildings were set fire to indiscriminately at the time so the lighter fluid and petrol cans reference that.

"I also have a solo exhibition opening at the Mac on August 7. I'm so pleased."

An exhibition by the shortlisted artists for the Mac International will run across all three Mac galleries in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter from October 31 to January 18, 2015, offering visitors the chance to explore the sculpture, painting, photography, film, installation and performance.

Mac curator Hugh Mulholland said it was a opportunity for visitors to "see current visual art practice by local, national and international artists".

"We expect many of the visitors to the exhibition to be out-of-state, making a major contribution to Northern Ireland's cultural tourism economy," he added.

Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the exhibition should inspire Northern Ireland's up-and-coming artistic talent.

"This is at the very heart of international contemporary art and will ensure both the reputation of the Mac and contemporary arts here continue to grow," she said.

"With the exhibition free of charge and running until January 2015, I am certain many people will take the opportunity to visit the Mac."

Suzanne Lyle, head of visual arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said the prize put Northern Ireland "at the very heart of international contemporary art practice".

"Given the volume and diversity of entries, I don't envy the task undertaken by the judges but I am very much looking forward to seeing the work of the shortlisted artists at the Mac from October," she added.

For more information visit

Profile: Colin Darke

Father-of-one Colin Darke (57) from Belfast has exhibited his work widely over three decades. A conceptual artist, he has held solo shows in Britain, Canada, Ireland and Italy. The two-person show, Commodity Form, held with David Mabb, was shown in the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, and Bluecoat, Liverpool. His solo exhibition at the Mac, Grotesque Mediocrity, runs from August to October this year.

Profile: Dougal McKenzie

Belfast-based artist Dougal McKenzie is currently a lecturer in painting at Belfast School of Art, based in Bedford Street. Awards include a prize at the John Moores 23 Exhibition of Contemporary Painting (2004) and an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Major Individual Award (2005). He was also selected for the John Moores Retrospective, South Korea (2010) and for the John Moores 2012 Painting Prize.

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