CAPTURED: Rich, Rugged and Fresh, Goose Lane Gallery, Belfast, 7th – 23rd September 2017

My first visit to this small gallery behind the Tivoli Barber’s  shop in North Street happened courtesy  the painter Gary Shaw.


Until this encounter,  I failed  to register an art group  Belfast Bankers, a name inspired by  the group of 29 artists, and ” a load of bees”, taking a short term lease of the vacant Ulster Bank  building on Newtownards Road to use as studios.  As I knew nothing of its story,  I asked Zara  Lyness. Her response  ( email 1oth 09 2017) I re-print here with her  kind permission:

When the art college moved in 2015, there was nowhere for the student Arts and Culture Society to run a members exhibition in the new building  that the public could easily access. I asked Rob Hilken if he could suggest anywhere affordable and through that met with Eddie McGlinchey, owner of the Tivoli Barbers. He had let another group of students use the space some time previous so the boards were there already. We ran the society members show in December 2015.
The lack of public exhibition opportunities within the university prompted Jenny and I to approach Eddie about continuing to use the space and see how it went. After our first solo exhibition for Mary Gilfillan, 3rd year painter, in March 2016 we installed the french cleat hanging system. As we were not funded we didn’t want to have to keep filling in holes and painting the walls after every show! We have tried to focus on student/graduate and emerging artists. The Gallery can be visited when the barber shop is open and occasionally we have had Brian and Shirley in with a seminar group!
Since March 2016 we have hosted 12 events opening on late night art, thanks to the one of the barbers staying behind to keep the premises open after a full working day. They have been top chaps. We have brought in other students to give them gallery assistant experience as well as going on a steep learning curve ourselves. It surprised us how many students had not given thought to how the work would be hung and we have spent some time attaching d-rings and fabricating hanging frames for unframed work.
Jenny has been in Mongolia for the past 6 weeks so I invited the Bankers to the Barbers for September thinking that having a group show with more experienced artists would easier to manage on my own. Having Sally, a more experienced curator, was super. I was successful in an Arts Council SIAP application last year to develop my curatorial skills through the use of Goose Lane and working with Sally slotted in very neatly with that.
We are indebted to Eddie for letting us use the space and Rob for the initial encouragement and promotion on the Belfast Art Map and Late Night Art Facebook page. Jenny and I met on the Fine Art course. My background is in administration, hers – theatre and set design. If you look for Artistslegup on Facebook you will be able to see posters for previous exhibitions.

 I asked more, and Zara  again helped me:

…certainly, use my email. Jenny Davies started the Fine Art course with me in 2014 and I got her involved with the Arts and Culture Society. We run Goose Lane as a team. She took a year out at the end of our 2nd year, and may be going back to complete the degree part time this year. She is another mature student and although we are like chalk and cheese seem to work very well together. Eddie, the owner, makes occasional appearances at openings. He came for our first solo show with Mary. The photo attached from the left shows me, Mary (artist), Jenny Davies and Eddie.
I forgot to mention, I think North Street was called Goose Lane in the past. There is a bronze plaque at the Royal Avenue end with geese and some information on it to look out for next time you are passing.



The name of the exhibition, “Captured” belongs more tightly to Neal Campbell, introduced in the gallery handout as “documentary photographer” working primarily with analogue equipment and wet printing technique. Handmade as opposed to digital.

Neal Campbell, Broadway,.n.d.


In this first account with Campbell’s  images I sense the  ethos domineering  over aesthetic experience. Reminiscent of 1930s social themes, both his technique and feel for the power of fragment’s to tell  a story, revive that iconic period.  On his Facebook page I found his “portrait” surrounded with the light used for developing photographs.  Dark  and wet room –  alchemy now.

His lens suggested a delight about what he  cut out of a larger vista, which, in turn is allowed to spy on the empty centre, e.g. in Dolphin. The tentacles of tree branches  whisper  poetry and questions to the monstrosity of useful object, which in turn is spellbound  and posturing in equal measure.


Neil Campbell, Dolphin, photograph. n.d

Campbell’ s framing is reminiscent of a film or video  camera ability to frame and suggest continuity at the same time.  Suggestive of the move that never comes, the still image offers a confidence of truth.

Neal Campbell, Graveyard, n.d.


No sizes and dates are given. His Untitled and Ladyhill  shared the wall with  the read door and four paintings, modestly.

The curator Sally O’Dowd  included two painters:  Esther O’Kelly and Jonny McEwen. Their  paintings come from an opposite trajectory between inspiration  and the  image. He roots his variations of what is green and how green, in the power of tonality. She dares to provoke contrasts to become tame, changing the scale as she moves from the top to the lower parts.

Jonny McEwen is returning to painting from a period of working lens based, video and code governed visual thoughts.  His green landscapes  issue an approval of the hues, tonality and divided brushstrokes  offering greater freedom from anything given. Look at the cheeky little square floating over an almost under water landscape  with so much confidence.  It even undermines the right of presence to  the white fatty scribble  that threatens to overwhelm the row of orange shapes while masking a part of the darker horizon.   The two dark verticals define the scale as  in a the classical composition, a logic  violated by the dark rectangle  wall on the left and that out of order  white opaque  scribble in front of it. Pure theatre.

Jonny McEwen. Oil on stretched canvas, n.d.


Divided brushstroke he inherits from  Abstract Expressionism, taming it to domestic scale


The mirage on the left may be not intentional, but it is working well all the same.  All sixteen paintings exhibited  have no title, size or date are not given either.  Thrown into the world they insist on virtues of not knowing. McEwen strips the debate between what the  brushstroke may tell and what the eye may read of any certainty – thus positioning the painted image towards musical composition.  When you dwell on the accidental shape of the pink white on the left –  both the sensual truth and rejection of narrative is very close to natural phenomena. Mirage or reflection of the cloud? Not necessary to be sure at all.  It is more like a half smiling  invitation to make it up.


Esther O’Kelly 

exhibited four paintings, installed on two walls of a corner. Bachelard infused corners with added poetry, so I am inclined to note each separately and as a group.

From left: Mighty Ocean Deep, acrylic and oil on canvas ;Opera Festival, acrylic on canvas; King of the Month, acrylic and oil on canvas; Watermelon Sunshine, acrylic and spray on canvas

Opera Festival

Mighty Ocean Deep


The titles suggest  that any narrative I may attach to viewing it should not share the same root – one connects to an  opera, the other to an ocean . Is it visible?  I sense that it does not aim to insist on the title to determine the visual thoughts locked in the hues, tonality and brushstrokes.   This painter’s personal palette connects more to art than to observed nature.   In the way she positions  difference over the whole, however, is responsive to the timing in an opera  made of many defines parts clearly delineated,  and an ocean as powerful unity of its, mostly hidden, parts.  One is open to narrative exploration of differences, the other overwhelms by  hiding them under the surface of oneness.  A plausible register of possibilities.  I cherish the power  of both paintings to make visible the moment of  a hue asserting its presence without a conflict.  The open divided brushstroke accepts the calmer  fluency of the others, even when provoked by clashing lines of a bigger shape.  But in there is a notable knot: what if it muddles the visual poetry of the whole?  One possible outcome is the successful  grounding the imagined in the remembered. obse  I sense that  this painter never holds the memory responsible, preferring invention, fresh   opening up to dreaming up  relationship among the  brushmarks. . A sort of spanner in the works- if the works are expected to tell of a past experience Instead – the paintings evoke an experience of  making up playful multiple meanings.


I welcome this gallery on the list to visit.

images courtesy of the artists, the curator  and the Goose Lane gallery.


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
This entry was posted in essay, review and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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