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Belfast’s Lyric Theatre played host to a special evening of art, discussion and insight as a captive audience enjoyed an intimate Ulster University showcase which covered success, stories and past studies.

Ulster University alumni and world-renowned artists, Colin Davidson and Oliver Jeffers treated their audience to a fascinating and unique discussion as they shared career highlights and delved into how they started out in Northern Ireland, with their sense of place playing a vital role in shaping their works.

Contemporary artist Colin Davidson graduated from Ulster University in 1991 before going on to captivate the world with his grand-scale portraits, including those of Queen Elizabeth II, Bill Clinton, Liam Neeson, Brad Pitt, and Ed Sheeran.

Oliver Jeffers, a visual artist and author now living in New York, graduated from Ulster University in 2001 and has had his critically acclaimed work displayed in National Museums and Galleries across the globe.

The duo were introduced to the stage by Professor Paul Seawright, Executive Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Belfast School of Art, and from the off spoke candidly to the attentive audience, reflecting on their individual academic and personal experiences that paved the way for their current international success.

Evoking a nostalgic tone, Colin spoke passionately about his years spent at Ulster University, recognising the phenomenal amount of work that he created there, stating:

“I definitely feel I knew much more about painting just before I graduated University than I do now”, adding, “when I went to Ulster University, I immediately jumped in with both feet and used it as an opportunity to explore as many different techniques in art that I possibly could have.”

Similarly, Oliver proudly conveyed the role that Ulster University played in shaping his artist’s hand, admitting that, for him, heading to university was like “jumping into a swimming pool”, going on to thank the institution for the freedom that students were given in expressing their creativity:

“In my final year I truly applied myself, there were a few instructors that made a life-defining impact on me and really prepared me for the world outside, installing a great work ethic.”

The evening came to a close with great words of inspiration and advice to current students and aspiring artists. Colin imparted some words of wisdom as the night came to a conclusion:

“Listen to what everybody is saying to you, but more importantly, pay attention to what the voice inside of you is saying.” Oliver agreed, adding, “be honest with yourself about why you are doing it.”

Eddie Friel, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Ulster University commented:

“Colin Davidson and Oliver Jeffers embody the Ulster University spirit and continue to make the University very proud with their achievements and global successes. By giving back to the University through sharing their stories,  Oliver and Colin act as a beacon of inspiration for our students and recent graduates, encouraging them to work hard to achieve their goals and follow their dream careers.”

All profits made will go towards supporting Ulster University’s student-led mental health initiative, ‘Mind Your Mood’.