Exhibition at the Lord Mayor’s Parlour

Mayor’s Parlour Exhibition, Belfast City Hall. Featuring work by (l-r): John Rainey, Sinead Bhreathnach-Cashell, and Thomas Wells

In December 2021, I co-curated an exhibition at the Mayor’s Parlour in Belfast’s City Hall with two artists, activists and members of Array Studios: Emma Campbell and Sinead Bhreathnach-Cashell. We hope that – soon – changes in restrictions will allow the public to view the exhibition. For now, further details below… 



10 December 2021 – 30 June 2022

This exhibition has been commissioned by Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl, and was curated thematically in line with her progressive values. On appointment, the Lord Mayor encouraged all political parties on Belfast City Council to work together to grow ‘a more inclusive, forward-thinking and kinder city’; an ethos which this selection of artists and their work aims to reflect.

The showcase includes work by 2021 Turner Prize winners, Array Collective, as well as an invited selection of artists whose work ranges across disciplines and career stages. These artists and specific artworks reflect Kate’s interest in social justice movements, and illustrate the work she is doing to further diversity and inclusion during her term. The showcase represents Belfast-based artists from a range of backgrounds, including ethnic and cultural minority communities, LGBTQIA individuals, and activists for women’s rights to bodily autonomy. In the Mayor’s words, ‘Belfast, all of it, belongs to each of us, and we should have pride in all its glories’.

The showcase is composed of work by artists from Belfast’s studios, many of which exist in precarious circumstances, and which the Mayor has been keen to support. The opportunity to showcase this work originated at the Mayor’s invitation following discussions and lobbying from this arts sub-sector, which the Mayor invited to speak to Council and which has grown significantly in recognition following her intervention.

Artists: Anushiya Sundaralingam, Array Collective, Ben Malcolmson, Ciaran Harper, Clodagh Lavelle, Dorothy Hunter, Emma Campbell, Factotum, Grace McMurray, Johanna Leech, John RaineyJoy Gerrard, Laura Nelson, Marta Dyczkowska, Peter Surginor, Sally O’Dowd, Shiro Masuyama, Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell, Sinéad O’Donnell, Stephen Millar, Thomas Wells, Wee Nuls

This showcase has been curated by Emma Campbell: artist, Array Collective member, activist and researcher; Sinead Bhreathnach-Cashell: artist, Array Collective member, activist and curator; and Jane Morrow: curator, writer and researcher.


Featured artists and works, listed alphabetically by first name: 

Anushiya Sundaralingam

Shadow Play, pencil on paper, 2018

Originally from Sri Lanka, Anusihiya has lived and worked in Belfast for twenty-seven years. Since graduating from University of Ulster in 1998 with a BA Hons in Fine and Applied Arts, Anushiya has been a full-time artist and arts facilitator and is a studio holder at QSS. Her work is influenced by the challenges of identity and the nature of belonging. Previously, this has taken form through a range of subject matter, themes and media to convey the complexities of people, place and conflict. These relief drawings bridge the gap between 2D and 3D space – a metaphor for action that speaks louder than words.


Array Collective

Themuns Get Everything, digital print, 2019

Array Collective recently won the Turner Prize in 2021. They make hopeful and dynamic artwork which addresses urgent social and political issues affecting Northern Ireland with humour, seriousness and beauty. This work reads ‘Themuns Get Everything’ as Gaeilge, in a parody of the binary politics that exists in Northern Ireland. Array Collective members: Sighle Bhreathnach-Cashell, Sinead Bhreathnach-Cashell, Jane Butler, Emma Campbell, Alessia Cargnelli, Mitch Conlon, Clodagh Lavelle, Grace McMurray, Stephen Millar, Laura O’Connor, Thomas Wells. Collective members are represented in this showcase both collectively and individually.


Ben Malcolmson

Untitled (body), Polaroid, 2021

Ben Malcolmson (b.1999) is a visual artist born and based in Belfast. Ben works within the parameters of photography, video and sculpture exploring alternative photographic processes with relation to one’s land and identity. He is a recent graduate from Ulster University (2021), other studies include undertaking his Erasmus exchange (2019-20) at The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague.


Ciaran Harper

Arrival, oil on canvas, 2018

Ciaran Harper is a Fine Art graduate of Ulster University, Belfast, where he won the prestigious Carson McDowell Award. He is a studio holder at QSS. Harper’s paintings draw on his mixed ethic and cultural heritage, on decolonisation as a theme in current artistic practice and theory – as well as on our streets – and into broader cultural and societal awareness. This work references the disembarkation of passengers from HMT Empire Windrush; the ship originally known as the MV Monte Rosa, which had carried Norwegian Jews to their deaths at Auschwitz in 1942, which was subsequently re-purposed, renamed, and remembered today for bringing 1027 post-war immigrants from across the Caribbean to the United Kingdom. The Windrush Scandal, uncovered in 2017, revealed that the UK government had erroneously classified thousands of legal residents as illegal immigrants after they arrived from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971. 


Clodagh Lavelle

They Shouldn’t go Together but They do, printed photographs, 2019

Clodagh Lavelle is a member of the Turner Prize winning Array Collectivee. Exhibited on Valentine’s Day 2019, this diptych of images depict an installation entitled They shouldn’t go together but they do: an example of Lavelle’s interest in the nuances of human behaviour, and what it means to share a ‘headspace’ with other humans – both literally and figuratively. Lavelle is continuously pursuing methods of creating new experiences for the viewer/participant, offering new ways of looking and communicating. The work is made from pink neoprene and four wall-mounted fans. Stickers on the floor indicate where viewers can stand to experience the work. The piece has since been reworked, and transformed into Lavelle’s character for the 2021 Turner Prize, The Happy Sad Sack.  


Dorothy Hunter


Dorothy Hunter is based in Flax. Working primarily across sculpture, installation and photography, she is interested in how spaces and society relate to and outgrow each other. This is a vinyl text work applied to the benches in Writer’s Square, in response to Castlebrooke’s insensitive redevelopment proposal for the Cathedral Quarter. The grass-roots vibrancy of the area – including public art, even that done in protest – is easily subsumed and weaponised in the push to gentrify. As time went on, this work became something a sitter could idly pick at whilst sitting in the time-limited public space.


Emma Campbell

An Appropriate Hobby: Poised, printed photo (foamex), 2019

Emma Campbell is an activist-artist from Belfast. She is a member of the Turner Prize winning Array Collective, PhD researcher at Ulster University and Co-convenor of Alliance for Choice. Her PhD focuses on her practice as an embedded activist artist in the abortion rights campaign in NI, using largely photography and street interventions. An Appropriate Hobby embraces the legacy of suffragette struggle alongside contemporary feminism, it links new activist / picture technologies such as Instagram with Victorian classification methodologies, and the first ever colour photograph. It addresses bodily autonomy, and dominant patriarchal discourse about appropriate gendered sexual behaviour. Importantly, it also allows the abortion rights movement to take back the visual terrain without demuring and demonstrate our collective strength.


The Vacuum

Sorry Issue, Newspaper, Issue 21, December 2004

The Vacuum is a free newspaper published in Belfast by the arts organisation Factotum. Each issue is themed and contains critical commentary about the city and broader cultural issues. The cover of this issue is by Duncan Ross. 


Grace McMurray

Mariah, glitter and satin ribbon, frame, 2021

Grace McMurray is a member of two Belfast studio groups: QSS and the Turner Prize winning Array Collective Array Collective. Grace reconstitutes ideas of drawing and traditional craft methods through the relationship between the digital and the handmade. Employing geometric patterns and symmetry to construct a soothing familiarity, the ostentation of the work strives for visibility.


Johanna Leech

THINK, screenprint, 2019

Johanna Leech is an artist based at Flax Art Studios. Her practice is that of artist-collector. This work references the biggest marketing campaign of all time, by IBM, and the artist collects things associated with it, salvaged from an abandoned IBM complex in New York State. The artist’s father worked for IBM in Belfast. She describes herself as an explorer presenting her discoveries. Her work draws on international folk traditions and her vaguely ethnographic, museological presentation enables viewers to create their own narratives as they are led through unusual rumours, local lore, historic or accurate happenings to moments of collective consciousness. 


John Rainey

A Peeling (Lilac/Black), Parian porcelain, 2021 

John Rainey is based at Flax Art Studios. His sculptural work indicates a process that is part laboratory, part playground. His work is a combination of traditional casting processes, using materials including porcelain, and digital fabrication technologies such as 3D printing. Rainey’s work addresses things not being as they seem: portals, post-internet worlds, glitches, and intersectional identities.


Joy Gerrard

The North is Next, inkjet print on paper, framed, 2018

Joy Gerrard lives and works in Belfast, and is a member of QSS. She graduated with a BA from NCAD, Dublin and an MA and MPhil from the Royal College of Art, London. Gerrard is known for work that investigates different systems of relations between crowds, architecture and the built environment. Using Japanese ink on paper and canvas, Gerrard makes detailed ink works which re-create recent political protests from around the world, including the Brexit and Trump Resistance, Occupy movement, Arab Risings and many more.


Laura Nelson

There will Never Be a Border Between Us, hand-painted sign on plywood, 2019, 1220 x 750mm 

Laura Nelson is based at Vault Artist Studios. Her current work revives the traditional art of sign-painting, and often humorously references both nostalgia and better times to come. The inspiration for this piece came from an exchange with a stranger at a music festival in the South of Ireland. Nelson also works in sculpture, installation and as a props-maker for community projects and theatre. Her work is increasingly public and site-specific, with recent interventions on the walls of Fanum House, Great Victoria Street, and as part of the hit the North Street Art Festival. 


Marta Dyczkowska

Selected images from the Shut the Front Door series, photographic collage, 2021

Marta Dyczkowska is based at Flax Art Studios. Her work explores material culture through themes such as identity, memory, loss, trauma, and migration. Shut the Front Door is a body of work that reflects on the loss of cultural spaces from Belfast city centre. Initially, Marta relocated to Belfast to avail of these spaces, only to find them steadily disappearing; their buildings being demolished, causing groups to disband, or organisations relocating to less accessible spaces further away from the city centre. Those pictured include Warzone Collective, Loft Collective, Queen Street Studios, and Platform Arts. 


Peter Surginor

Petition of Concern, linen napkin, 2019

Peter Surginor is a ceramics artist and LGBTQI+ rights activist who was finally able to get married in 2021. His studio is at Preaching House Pottery. The Petition of Concern refers to a document that was signed to stop the introduction of same-sex, equal marriage in Northern Ireland. This napkin was created as part of a set which includes the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and the New Decade, New Approach documents. This work was commissioned by Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive and originally exhibited in the Braid, Ballymena accompanied by a porcelain slice of wedding cake. 


Sally O’Dowd

Fabware Breast Pump, 2018

Sally O’Dowd is a visual artist and curator with a socially engaged practice. She is based at Vault Artist Studios. O’Dowd’s research and practice is concerned with female ritual and investigating the role – self selected and enforced – of women in contemporary Irish society. Her work is often absurd, such as this breast pump, rendered functionless through a decorative application of pink glitter and presented as a luxury giftware line entitled The Fabware Collection. Other objects in the series included a colander, a toilet brush set, a sony playstation controller, a saucepan, a boiler part and a pair of spanners.


Shiro Masuyama

Borderline, framed digital print

Shiro Masuyama is the only Japanese artist in Northern Ireland, and is based at Flax Art Studios. With a background in architecture, Masuymama makes projects which fundamentally connect people and society across a range of media, from performance to sculpture, installation, photography and video. Masuyama occupies a unique position in observing and questioning how identity can be influenced by the dominant political forces surrounding us on this island. This work, remade specifically for this exhibition, is an extension of a commission for Derry~Londonderry City of Culture 2012, which saw Masuyama convert the interior of a used caravan into two parts – one half related to Irish culture and the other half to British culture. Many of the items pictured in the caravan have counterparts in both cultures and are displayed symmetrically, each on their corresponding side, and which is reflected here in the artist’s choice of frame and fabric.


Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell

Belfast Dole Ticket, porcelain, 2011

Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell is a visual artist from Belfast. She is a member of the Turner Prize winning Array Collective and Curator for Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive. This work is a parody of a dole ticket, rendered in porcelain. The dole has long been considered a lifeline for artists, whose labour goes larger unfunded and unrecognised. 


Sinéad O’Donnell

Yemaya, performance to camera/photograph, Montevideo, Uruguay, 2018

Sinéad O’Donnell is one of north of Ireland’s foremost performance artists, with an international profile garnered through numerous residencies and performances both nationally and internationally. Her work explores identity, borders, and barriers through encounters with territory and the territorial. This work, Yemaya, (named after the Goddess of the Sea from whom all other humans and gods are descended), evolved throughout a one-year residency during which O’Donnell lived and worked alongside women in Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Thailand and Uruguay and Indonesia; each sharing their stories. In each of these countries the permissions differed from culture to culture, community to community, artist to artist, woman to woman. O’Donnell’s artistic response references the bi-annual ritual where local communities come together to worship the goddess, using her body, the sea and rice paper to make an offering.


Stephen Millar

The Contents of My Tummy, acrylic and marker on canvas, 2016

Stephen Millar is a member of the Turner Prize winning Array Collective. Millar’s work lies somewhere between abstraction and caricature, making use of the interplay between image and language, often to satirical ends. Stephen is a qualified, practicing art therapist and his work often addresses unconscious responses to trauma and socialisation. His bleakly comic and often unsettling tone highlight social injustice, and the frictions at play in one’s sense of belonging.


Thomas Wells

Chips, digital printed and fired coupe bone china plate, 2021

Thomas Wells is a member of the Turner Prize winning Array Collective. Thomas is particularly interested in collective practice and exploring methodologies of collaboration. They create narratives and tell tales that explore identity, and family life. They love the dissolving of the truth into fiction as stories are retold which result in the creation of myths. The project of which this work is a part, Chips with Everything, explored the commemoration of intimate and hidden everyday moments, particularly the role of women as gatekeepers of knowledge in the community. Thomas worked alongside alongside an arts and craft group in Sailortown to develop this series of plates.


Wee Nuls

Bloody Beautiful, giclee print embellished with acrylic marker, 2020

Nuala Convery, better known by her artist alias Wee Nuls, is a Belfast-based artist working in a variety of mediums including printmaking, digital illustration and spray paint. Her work features abstract contemporary figurative work and explores the narratives of beauty standards, feminism, mythology, and sexual expression.