Border Exhibition- Void Gallery, Derry

Exhibiting in Void Gallery, Derry on March 28th the Border exhibition is a unique artistic collaboration which will showcase a range of work by an array of female artists.  The project which initially began in February and centered on the theme of borders was an opportunity for women of all backgrounds to come together to make and create work. Over the 28 days each women created work independently with the group meeting at the end of the month to discuss and share their work with each other.

The project was originally created as a tribute to Helen Harris, who was a feminist, community activist and a writer mainly of short stories. Helen sadly passed away in 2011, at the age of 39 from cystic fibrosis, in her memory a donation was made for a workshop to take place in the arts and/or writing in her name. The donation was made by the mother of one of Helen’s closest friends, Sara and from there; the idea for the 28 day project was formed.

Leading the project is Sorcha Boyle who is a local practicing artist as well as a volunteer at Void Gallery. Working primarily as assistant producer on Void Artbits, which is a video review series that aims to widen social engagement with visual art. Growing up surrounded by art and attending exhibitions, Sorcha was accustomed with contemporary art from a young age. Inspired by the environment she grew up in, Sorcha went on to study art at Ulster University before graduating with a first class honours from Manchester School of Art in photography.

Explaining who she is influenced by now Sorcha says “The artists I am inspired by now are mostly video/installation artists and photographers. I am a big fan of video and installation artists Pipilotti Rist and Laure Prouvost and Patrick Bokanowski, and photographers Rinko Kauwachi and Nico Krijno. I like art that takes the everyday and makes it into something different and other-worldly, which is something I try to do in my own work.

The first meeting which took place in the Women’s Centre on the 1st of February had a great response with women of all ages attending. The significance of the project beginning on the 1st of February, it is that is the Feast of Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fertility, and the first day of spring in the Celtic calendar. Choosing this period for the project to begin helped add an extra element of meaning as not only does it symbolise new life and rebirth but also the lunar cycle in February.

Overwhelmed by the initial response to the event Sorcha explained The reaction to the project has been brilliant, we had a lot of interest from women of all ages and I was really overwhelmed to see as many as 20 women at the first meeting. I think the response to the project shows how necessary it is for projects like these to take place, for people to have a space to come together express themselves and share their ideas.”

With such a varied group of women from all different backgrounds, disciplines and talents the theme of ‘Borders’ was put in place to allow for a common goal.  The theme of ‘Borders’ which is a very relevant topic worldwide helped provoke a lot of thought and discussion despite whether the artists decided to approach their theme literally or not in the work.  With such a lack of creative opportunities for anyone in Northern Ireland wishing to pursue a career in the creative arts, the 28 Day project was welcomed by everyone involved.

The project has been a wonderful initiative that has helped bring women together to create dialogue on the issues that we face today. Creating a space for women to reflect and make work based on their own experience with emphasis on the process of making work rather than the finished piece.  Facilitator Sorcha explained that Derry is full of creative people, but the problem is that most of them need to move elsewhere to make a living. I would love to see more creative opportunities being created for young people in the city, because there is so much potential here.”

With such a straightforward concept the 28 day project certainly has potential to run as an annual event and hopefully grow in popularity. Passionate about involving people in the arts with such a positive outcome Sorcha explains how she hopes the project can continue.  “I want to continue to get involved in projects that widen engagement with the arts or that confront social issues through art, it’s something that I’m really passionate about and would love to do more of. Again it’s about creating the opportunity and space for a dialogue to take place.

The Border Exhibition opens on the 28th of March at Void Gallery, Derry and will continue until April 5th.

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