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ArtBeat: Immersed in Monet, looking forward to A Portrait of Belfast and preparing to FORAGE at Castle Espie...

Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience, A Portrait of Belfast at Belfast Exposed and FORAGE at Castle Espie are all on Jane Hardy's cultural radar...

The Monet Experience
The Monet Experience The Monet Experience

IT'S possible to revise an opinion. When I reviewed the big and popular Vincent van Gogh immersive experience at Carlisle Memorial Church in north Belfast last year, I wasn't convinced.

Maybe it was the deck-chair material adorned with his signature cypresses on which we reclined while entering the swirly, vivid world of van Gogh's landscapes. If there was an artist whose mind you'd wish to enter, it probably wouldn't be that of this bipolar artist, who ended his life too soon in the southern French asylum he painted so beautifully.

It was a spectacular experience, but not better, or even as good, as engaging with the actual canvases. But maybe I was wrong, or maybe it was the choice of artist – for Claude Monet: The Immersive Experience, also at Carlisle Memorial, works better.

This is because Impressionism lends itself to a dreaminess that can be experienced via oversized moving images, with you at the centre. It's a bit psychedelic to walk among the water lilies and face a massive version of the garden at Giverny, and that suits Claude Monet's 19th century romanticism.

David Hockney curated his own immersive show, but one critic called this a fad – and, with the parent company allegedly closing, this may be the last chance to appreciate art from inside. It runs until August 31, book online at monetexpo.com.

Cherrie Ontop is featured in Portrait of Belfast
Cherrie Ontop is featured in Portrait of Belfast Cherrie Ontop is featured in Portrait of Belfast

Does the camera ever lie? Not exactly, but it's an editorial instrument, pointed in a particular direction by the photographer.

"Well, a camera is an observational tool that records a moment in time," says Belfast Exposed CEO, Deirdre Robb, as the gallery launches an ambitious new show, Portrait of Belfast.

It features a couple of hundred portraits of the well-known – Tim McGarry, Terri Hooley, James Martin, Deputy Mayor Aine Groogan among them – and families who applied to be photographed.

"All the images in Portrait of Belfast capture a frozen moment of truth," explains Deirdre.

"Taken together, these provide a Belfast narrative, although of course it's a city of many stories."

Terri Hooley is featured in Portrait of Belfast
Terri Hooley is featured in Portrait of Belfast Terri Hooley is featured in Portrait of Belfast

The photographs are mono for a reason. Robb adds they wanted to showcase our diversity: "I chose black and white photos as that noir approach equalises, shows it doesn't matter who you are, the Lord Mayor or a baker."

It also adds a sprinkling of glamour.

“I was honoured to take part alongside the Lord Mayor Ryan Murphy and the High Sheriff John Kyle joining residents of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate contemporary Belfast," says Aine Groogan.

"My photograph was taken at Wildflower Alley in inner south Belfast, a once neglected alleyway transformed into a beautiful community space which is a haven for people’s mental and physical health, and means a lot to me.” 

James Martin is featured in Portrait of Belfast
James Martin is featured in Portrait of Belfast James Martin is featured in Portrait of Belfast

The show runs until September 23, more info at belfastexposed.org.

You have to wonder whether the arts can help save the planet. Well, 'eco-poetry', as it's dubbed, might just help: Maria McManus' poetry jukebox, which plants verse in surprising places, has launched its second event at Castle Espie just outside Comber.

Maria McManus, artistic director of Quotidian and Poetry Jukebox NI, with Paul Stewart from WWT Castle Espie
Maria McManus, artistic director of Quotidian and Poetry Jukebox NI, with Paul Stewart from WWT Castle Espie Maria McManus, artistic director of Quotidian and Poetry Jukebox NI, with Paul Stewart from WWT Castle Espie

Titled FORAGE, the poems examine our relationship with the environment and include Blackberry Picking, read by its author, Seamus Heaney. His sorrow at the short-lived fruit – "Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not" – seems symbolic.

As send-offs go, not much compares to our emotional farewell to Sinéad O'Connor that seemed to sum up both parts of Ireland with the massive Féile tribute and Bray funeral procession. Some people, like this musical genius, who was also a paid-up member of the awkward squad, managed to touch everybody.

Fans of Sinéad O'Connor line the streets as her funeral cortege passes through her former hometown of Bray, Co Wicklow. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Fans of Sinéad O'Connor line the streets as her funeral cortege passes through her former hometown of Bray, Co Wicklow. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire Fans of Sinéad O'Connor line the streets as her funeral cortege passes through her former hometown of Bray, Co Wicklow. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire