There's a balance to be struck between resources enabling art to be supportive of local talent but at the same time encouraging new talent and talent from outside of the region.

Which offers a dichotomy: Most people love having a chat with someone not based locally – new conversation, others worlds, different perspectives – and as a region we need different perspectives. But that must be balanced with artists living and working locally.

To the Stormont visitor, at first glance it’s hard to actually see the Swiss-based French graffiti artist Saype’s worldwide ‘Beyond Walls’ work of art — an image of linking arms. The gigantic, bio-degradable lawn fresco of intertwined hands is best viewed from the sky. At eye level it’s all painted grass and you cannot see the overall image. It takes a drone in the sky to see it whole and as intended.

The latest work is part of Belfast Photo Festival and director Michael Weir says it has taken two years to get all the pieces together.

“Due to the fleeting lifespan of his art, photography is an integral part of the process, capturing the tangible presence and preserving its message for people to enjoy, even when the physical piece has long disappeared," he says.

It was enjoyable to see the sign artists at work in the Stormont grounds and hopefully the image might challenge the though processes of everyone who views it.
Saype’s team painting on the grass with a charcoal mixture and spray contraption has been seen in over 14 countries creating different images, with previous iterations appearing in Ouagadougou, Paris, Geneva, and Dubai, to name but a few. The process involves making an image on a grid on paper. Then different coloured pegs are placed in the ground and used as a guide to spray tones. But the artist’s eye is very much required.

However, if you're really proud of the fact that your artwork is biodegradable, what exactly is the carbon footprint of all that travelling with a team and a camera crew behind you? What exactly are our responsibilities as artists and how do we improve our green credentials? Not just in the art but in the way we travel and with whom we travel to produce it?

“The artwork advocates solidarity, dialogue and friendship beyond geographical and societal constraints around the world," says the artist. Personally, I’d settle for around Belfast and everything else is a bonus.

SAYPE STRIKES AGAIN: UN headquarters in Geneva

SAYPE STRIKES AGAIN: UN headquarters in Geneva

The artwork is currently open to view at the Stormont Estate and will eventually fade over the next few weeks. The Belfast Photo Festival continues on to June 30. 
The Book Festival which has mushroomed out of the Crescent Arts Centre continues to delight audiences. I considered it rude not to attend the Art of the Critic panel talk as the three panelists discussed their experience and route into the roll of the critic. One spoke of being part of the entertainment industry and how marketing affects the art. My question, “Have you ever been verbally or physically assaulted by someone after something you have given an opinion on?” came up negative as they said none of them felt famous enough. I’m certainly not famous, but have received verbal abuse when offering an opinion to an art exhibition in a gallery.

When explaining how my opinion was formed and the fact I’ve viewed 90 per cent of the exhibitions in Belfast over the last 15 years to inform that opinion, I was subject to a tirade of  “Who do you think you are?” and other less polite verbiage. The abuse only stopped when the person was escorted out of the gallery. At least they were passionate about art, I thought, and cared enough to have a go at me.
If you have not seen Stones in his Pockets at the Lyric, it is highly enjoyable. Added drama was brought to the production last Wednesday when  a man in the row behind me suffered a. medical emergency. Luckily the man beside me was a doctor and proceedings and protocols jumped into  action and the gentleman who took ill was fine.

Actors Shaun Blaney and Gerard McCabe jumped back into action playing all the characters that if you live locally you will certainly recognise. I overheard a rather famous visual artist complaining it wasn’t Shakespeare and he had a little doze at the end. But Marie Jones' play seems still relevant today, particularly to the ever-increasing part of the population who have been extras. It got a standing ovation and everyone was ready for a dance when the music clicked in but had to do with a hand clap instead.
After so long when no live entertainment was available the audiences seem to be back with a vengeance. Dance has a specific following locally with audiences turning up to support a world class production when it arrives in the city. The Hofresh Shechter Company arriving at the Mac on their European tour was an exceptional event.

The piece originally premièred in Italy. Eight dancers aged 18 to 25, representing the very best of the next generation of international contemporary artists, have been selected from over 1000 auditionees to join the 2022 Shechter II development programme .

They appeared out of the dark of the stage with the kind of energy that only this age group can have. The gestures and choreography complemented the different body types, the lights played tricks on where you thought they were on the stage. What were all these dancers doing with all their energy during lockdown? They made fun of classical dance but with respect and the high energy music earned the dancers a standing ovation. What then followed was perhaps the most brilliant encore from a bow to the audience to individual set pieces. Some people find contemporary dance difficult to watch but, as with every art form, trying it out as an audience member can harvest unexpectant results. The dancers are Tristan Carter, Cristel de Frankrijker, Justine Gouache, Zakarius Harry, Alex Haskins, Oscar Jinghu Li, Keanah Faith Simin and Chanel Vyent. What a wonderful opportunity for them all to be selected for the piece and the experience of performing at this level. Nice too to see the Mac so busy on a midweek evening. 

 'A Trace of Ownership' at Belfast Exposed shows the Masters of Fine Art MFA 2022 work. There is nothing I love better than going into an exhibition space that has been completely changed and expertly developed. The exhibition “aims to interrogate the ways in which the photographic medium is used to articulate the stories that saturate our world.” Which it does. A Trace of Ownership is at Belfast Exposed until July 16.