Over the past century, artists in Northern Ireland have responded to their own direct experience of political conflict and protest, as well as to anecdote and media coverage. The role of the artist is not to create an impartial document but to provide an individual perspective and provoke dialogue, reminding the viewer of the fragility of peace.
In their 1959 work, self-taught artist E Rutherford shows the shadow of violence on a gable wall, echoed in the work of John Keane made during his time as a war artist in the 1980s. FE McWilliam’s sculpture is part of a series created in response to the 1972 bombing of the Abercorn Tea-Rooms in Belfast, whilst Victor Sloan uses a photograph as the starting point for his work.
More recent artists such as Joy Gerrard tackle international political protests such as the Black Lives Matter rallies. Her depiction of massed demonstrators echoes the abstracted swirl of marchers in Joe McWilliams’ work.