The Monthly interviews Arts Exhibition Curator, Tamsin Hong – Part 2

part one of this interview is here

What have you found about the art you have seen in Belfast so far?

I was interested in coming to Northern Ireland, particularly the Naughton Gallery, because I thought the gallery was investigating similar things to what I was interested in.

Some of those themes include how international contemporary art is engaging with issues around gender and race. Equally potent is how labels, which formerly had a stronghold with regards understanding those issues, are now being challenged, undermined, navigated and explored by artists.

And how have you found the local art scene?

I recently went on the Late Night Art bus tour and I thought that was fantastic. For only £10 you go from gallery to gallery and we (I was with friends) went to one opening after another. I was very impressed by the Golden Thread Gallery and the work that is presented there.

I also have become interested in street art here, or at least recent street art. I have been on a street art tour with Tim McCarthy, a local street artist, and I was impressed by the new orientation that emerged during that tour.

You seem quite taken with what is happening in Belfast?

I can imagine street artists coming here because of Belfast’s and Northern Ireland’s history; an art form often concerned with protest could easily find a home in Belfast.

While international tourism organisations tend to look at the Titanic, Game of Thrones, and the history of the Troubles, to me the really interesting things are the alternative artistic and cultural community – many of whom I have met and I think there is a thriving scene that is worthy of examination.

Even if you consider places like The Black Box or even the new specialty coffee shops and similar grassroots businesses – they give an indication of an emerging undercurrent of a new Belfast.

Do you think there is an inclusivity in the artistic and cultural activities you have seen while you have been here?

Perhaps there is some way to go before all the communities that have made Belfast their home, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds, are fully represented but I have seen artists from different backgrounds being exhibited and musicians from different backgrounds performing. I feel I have seen things that should offer us reasons to be hopeful.

What about art and the question of sectarianism?

Art is only one avenue by which sectarianism can be challenged. I certainly see something in the street art I have seen and I have witnessed plenty of local art which is aiming to encourage empathy rather than animosity. That surely has to be a good thing.

In fact, I have seen plenty of local art which I think challenges the status quo. The idea that people should be cemented into one community or the other has been investigated, which again has inspired me.

I see a lot of art, both in local and international scenes which challenges the idea that we should “other” people.

The exhibition which [at the time of the interview] is in the Naughton Gallery now is examining questions like that and to me that suggests positive change is possible.

Are there any artists which inspire you at the moment?

I am very intrigued by Santiago Sierra who is a performance artist questioning how capitalism lets down communities, how the system undermines the work that people do and how market forces dehumanise the working class; he looks at immigration and racism as well, and he does this in very powerful ways.

Patricia Piccinini is an Australian artist, a hyper-real artist, who creates extraordinary sculptures which make you feel like figures you are looking at are actually breathing. She examine how we can empathise with other creatures.

And Jessie Jones’ work at the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale really moved me. This was in 2017 and she was looking at the concept of humanity which existed before laws. She used a witch/goddess figure which challenged patriarchal laws which I found particularly compelling.

I could suggest many more because there is a lot of exciting work available for people to search out at the moment and part of my job is to encourage people to do that, to visit galleries and be excited about art and what artists can do.

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.