Review: Ulster University Fine Art Graduate Show at the MAC, Belfast

The Ulster University BA and MFA Fine Art Graduate Show currently running at the MAC
Jane Hardy


Graduate art show



GROUP art shows, from the RA Summer Exhibition to the MAC's Ulster University BA and MFA Fine Art Graduate Show, often mirror the zeitgeist.

There are some pieces reflecting the current melancholy in the MAC's first post-lockdown exhibition, which opened on Wednesday. Disintegration? You get it in Vasilika Stasinak's piece It Hurts My Elbows, that reveals a series of broken small classical statues placed round a kind of cultural kebab with torsos and a noble head impaled on a metal pole. In the Tall Gallery for BA students, Lyssa Watson's Abyss involves a fan disturbing a screen with lot of paper messages about identity.

Contemporary art is referential. So we admire a small boxed collection of things, including Astral face cream. Very Damien Hirst.

On the fourth floor, Gemma Kirk's Order that Protects Disorder consists of a wardrobe with its door ajar, leading not to Lewis's Narnia but to a two-way mirror reflecting the observer. Which is maybe what is on the other side.

Round the corner, a landscape of small metal objects with a portrait of a snake and somebody's Alsatian dog is nicely named The Magnitude of Small Things. Artist John Connolly told me about his multiple sources of inspiration.

"I'd been reading Thus Spake Zarathustra, hence the snake. I work with found objects and collected bits of copper on Carlingford beach to make the moulds. The dog was an illustration I found, dated 1971. And the title relates to something I'd read written by a Dominican monk."

Generously, he said his work is open to interpretation. I sensed grave items, reflecting the eclectic nature of our lives.

Among the big canvases, Keara Miller's portraits of two old guys, their biographies in their eyes, are well executed. There is also a nervy painting of a mother protecting her children in the clouds by Emma O'Loan, titled HOLD.

In the smallest gallery, short films play on a loop. Among the biblical reinterpretations and engagement with sinister plastic sheets, Fran Wilson's pastoral piece The Living Things nails the intensity of early summer 2020. We hear the birdsong without traffic, see the leafy trees, feel nature shake herself during the pandemic.

It's great the MAC is back.

The exhibition continues until October 11. You need to book a visitor slot,, 028 9023 5053.

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