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Lecture to Explore Derry's Artistic Links with South Africa

17 December 2013

The exhibiting itinerary of two works by Irish artist Philip Napier will be explored in an innovative lecture to be hosted this week as part of the City of Culture 2013 programme.

Presented by art critic and curator, Liam Kelly, Emeritus Professor of Irish Visual Culture at the University of Ulster, the lecture will focus on Napier’s Ballad 1 (1992) and Gauge (1997).

Professor Kelly said: “Napier’s art practice has often explored the association between language, identity, trauma and power.

“In a number of projects he has used the emotional or politically invested fabric of buildings and social spaces to “sound out” from.“

In ‘Ballad I’ the architecture of the British School in Rome was deployed as a natural sound box to hold and amplify the wheezing death rattle of an installed image of Bobby Sands, the Irish hunger striker, at the rear of the building and an image of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist thinker, in the front portico – both, in different ways, icons of counter culture.

“It was subsequently exhibited inside/outside at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and at the Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast.”

Professor Kelly continued: “With ‘Gauge’, first exhibited at the Orchard Gallery, Derry, Napier opened up a range of uncertainties about the nature of ‘an apology’.

“Initially the tragic events of Bloody Sunday provided the contextual point of reference for this work.

“It was conceived against a backdrop of sustained calls for an apology from the British Government for the events of Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972.

“Here, the role of language is probed as a possibility for bringing about wholeness or resolution between colonised and coloniser, or resolution within a state of interdependence.“More recently Gauge was exhibited at The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg in 2006 and installed in 2011 in Robin Island, South Africa.

“The installation of the work was set up in Nelson Mandela’s former prison to anticipate the imminent publication of the Saville report.”

Professor Kelly concluded: “This presentation will consider how an artwork conceived initially for one particular space changes when exhibited in very different circumstances and in a differing ensemble of other works by the same artist.

“It will also probe the extent to which both these works have, as it were, served their interrogating usefulness and the validity of possibly ‘decommissioning’ them.”

This lecture, which is entitled: ‘The Becoming of Art – The Decommissioning of Art? ‘, will take place on Thursday 19 December, at 7.30pm in the Void Gallery, Derry ~ Londonderry.

Notes to editors:

Dr Liam Kelly is a former Director of The Orchard Gallery, Derry. He is Emeritus Professor of Irish Visual Culture at the University of Ulster, Belfast and Chair of The International Association of Art Critics’ Commission on Censorship and Freedom of Expression (Paris).

Philip Napier was born in Belfast in 1965 and was awarded an MA in Fine Art from the University of Ulster in 1989. He is currently a Professor and Head of Fine Art and Sculpture at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.