HOW can the tragedy of domestic abuse inspire such beautiful art? This was the thought I had the first time I viewed the wonderful collaboration between glass artist Alison Lowry and performance artist Jayne Cherry. 

They first collaborated on some pieces around pain in the joints, trying to materialise to an outside audience what chronic pain looks like, making glass bones highlighted with glowing lights at the point of pain. 

 

But the time spent together obviously got the creative juices flowing and brought about the observation that when in a house where there is domestic abuse, there can be a feeling of walking around on glass, as if worried that  each step would set someone in the house off.  This observation was developed into a set of bespoke glass shoes and walking sticks made by Alison, which in turn  developed into a performance about domestic violence. For me, when I viewed it it felt like the most poignant piece of art I’d witnessed all year. It was subsequently purchased by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s art collection. 

The glass shoes are part of Craft NI’s Craft Heroes exhibition currently running in their gallery on Royal Avenue. All of the eight north- based heroes are on view: Seliena Coyle, Jack Doherty, Sara Flynn, Bob Johnston, Alison Lowry, Michael McCrory, Peter Meanley and Cara Murphy. Selected from over six hundred nominations, 50 people from all over Ireland were selected to represent Irish Craft at its best – one for each year that Design and Crafts Council Ireland’s has been in existence.

To see the full selection of inspirational craftspeople from all over Ireland you can wonder around the outdoor panel trail in Botanic Gardens. 

First shown in Kilkenny, then going on to tour Dublin and Cork,  the  panel trail – celebrating Ireland’s inspirational craftspeople and makers whose work has contributed to the rich tapestry of craft and design practice in Ireland – will be in situ until early  November.

A couple of doors down at the University of Atypical gallery Larry McAree is having his first solo exhibition called ‘Still Livin’’. Larry is one of the four  winners of the Chris Ledger legacy awards,  offered in her memory for deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists based in Northern Ireland who have some level of creative practice already established. 

The £5,000 has allowed him to develop an autobiographical exhibition, where earlier scrapbooks sit alongside his later water-colours, Lego sculptures and superhero assemblages. Larry is a former student of mine. Full of stories, he would come into class and his watercolours would depict the politics of the day, from Boris Johnson to the Glenville Tower disaster.  It’s great to see how his practice has developed – all he needs now is an assisted studio. 

Susan Hughes, his niece, has been working with him for the exhibition as well as developing a book to be launched at the Bounce Festival (October 7 to 9), which has now spread out of Belfast to Derry and Strabane and this year its creative bounce will be felt in Enniskillen and Omagh. 

Bounce Arts Festival: Still Livin’ by Larry McAree runs at the University of Atypical, 109-113 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1 1FF. It’s open Tuesday to Friday 11am to 4pm  until October 21.