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The Collection holds over 650 works and represents the practices of artists at different stages in their careers, covering a wide range of disciplines including painting, sculpture, craft, print, photography and video. The pieces are by artists from Northern Ireland or by artists living and working in Northern Ireland. The artworks reflect artistic practice that is innovative and challenging, and that contribute to the development of visual arts practice in Northern Ireland.


Art Unlocked is an online talk series by Art UK in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Curation is based on a talk by Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts & Collections Officer, on 24th August 2022. You can find a recording at https://youtu.be/L23UwR4d68A

6 artworks
  • This work is taken from the series British Watchtowers which documents watchtower structures built in the mid-1980s on the hilltops of South Armagh, a rural region of Northern Ireland. These structures were constructed for the purpose of surveillance of the local area by the British Army during the conflict in Northern Ireland, more commonly known as The Troubles. Over a period of a year, the artist photographed these mostly by helicopter, before they were dismantled as part of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. In their time, the towers operated as surveillance structures, containing hi-tech cameras and listening devices, allowing the army to track civilian movement on both sides of the border with the Republic of Ireland.

    Watchtower R21. N/W (photograph one of three) 2018
    Donovan Wylie (b.1971)
    Digital photograph
    H 30.5 x W 40.6 cm
    Arts Council of Northern Ireland
    Watchtower R21. N/W (photograph one of three)
    © the artist. Photo credit: courtesy of Arts Council of Northern Ireland

  • This sculptural work was created during the early 2000s in a time of post-conflict in Northern Ireland. It reflects a sense of new hope, both aesthetically through the vibrancy of its sunshine yellow and the levity of the wool material it has been crafted from. A key element of the artist’s practice is his play with objects and materials, which historically carry notions of gender. The helicopter, an object traditionally associated with the masculine through its military associations, draws on the artist’s memories of growing up throughout the Troubles. The resulting sculpture is one that encourages disassociation from the object as we traditionally know it, instead opening up possibilities of reinterpretation through its materiality.

    Yellow Helicopter 2006
    Brendan Jamison (b.1979)
    Wool & wood
    H 240 x W 240 x D 100 cm
    Arts Council of Northern Ireland
    Yellow Helicopter
    © the artist. Photo credit: courtesy of Brendan Jamison Sculpture Studio & Arts Council NI

  • Stereoscope 2

    This photographic series straddles installation, photography and sculpture through its use of stereoscopes in the presentation of the work as 3 stereoscope sculptures. The stereoscope, a device which creates an illusion of 3D depth, is appropriate to the artist’s interest in extrasensory perception. Via the intimacy of the stereoscope as a viewing device, the audience is invited to peep into the binoculars to spectate a view that initially is unseen. Developed from an earlier series Faint, we witness a girl dressed in period costume before and after the state of collapse. The female figure, performed by the artist herself, draws on ideas of spiritualism and materialisation mediums through the performance elements of the work.

    Girl on Ground (Stereoscopes: Garden Series) 2001
    Susan MacWilliam (b.1969)
    Illuminated 35 mm transparencies observed through special viewing glasses
    Arts Council of Northern Ireland
    Girl on Ground (Stereoscopes: Garden Series)
    © the artist. Photo credit: courtesy of Arts Council of Northern Ireland

  • This sculptural work is part of the series Insurgence which came out of the artist’s 2012 MFA show at Royal College of Art, and comprised of a series of mutated bust-type sculptures, sculpted using Parian porcelain with the striking futuristic aesthetics achieved through 3D printing technology. This meeting of traditional craft and new technology has informed the artist’s practice in the 10 years following. The work is a hybrid of both the classical form and the possibilities of new technologies. The fragmented forms speak to the artist’s interest in the different versions we create of ourselves, and mark the changes in our cultural, personal, and social ways of living and communicating in the online world we now find ourselves in.

    The Massacre of Definition 2012
    John Rainey
    Porcelain & 3D print
    H 38 x W 15 x D 15 cm
    Arts Council of Northern Ireland
    The Massacre of Definition
    © the artist. Photo credit: Matthew Booth. Courtesy of Arts Council of Northern Ireland

  • This photographic work is part of an extensive and ongoing documentary photography project Air of the Anthropocene first created in 2018 by an artist whose practice centres on interactive new technologies. Within this series, he uses a custom-built LED light painter to create a visual image of particulate pollution levels, which translate into light dots through long exposure photography. This has the effect of shedding light on different levels of pollution, invisible to the naked eye. The resulting images are both mesmerising and shocking, highlighting important environmental concerns. This series has significance making a new wave of documentary photography, usi the arts and science to create a shift in thinking around global problems.

    Prince Street air quality monitoring site, Port Talbot, Wales – PM2.5 30 – 40 micrograms per cubic meter 2018
    Robin Price (b.1981)
    Giclée print on Dibond with walnut tray frame
    H 42 x W 28 cm
    Arts Council of Northern Ireland
    2018, giclée print on Dibond with walnut tray frame by Robin Price (b.1981)
    Prince Street air quality monitoring site, Port Talbot, Wales – PM2.5 30 – 40 micrograms per cubic meter
    © the artist. Photo credit: courtesy of Arts Council of Northern Ireland

  • Untitled (Calf II) Rwanda

    Seawright is renowned for his extensive photographic practice which has investigated the Northern Ireland conflict and other politicised landscapes worldwide. This series presents both survivors and perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 alongside portraits of animals, giving the viewer insight into a unique reconciliation project. The project pairs together a survivor and perpetrator of the genocide, engaging them in a series of workshops focused on reconciliation, truth telling and acceptance. As part of this process, they are given shared ownership of a donated cow, to develop a sustainable future for their community based on trust and forgiveness. The cows are presented in this series as instruments of peace.

    Untitled (Calf II) Rwanda 2021
    Paul Seawright (b.1965)
    Photograph (pigment print)
    Arts Council of Northern Ireland
    Untitled (Calf II) Rwanda
    © the artist. Photo credit: courtesy of Arts Council of Northern Ireland