Art exhibition celebrates ‘places teetering on the edge’

'The Place Beyond the Wires'. Oil on canvas. 90 x 90cm © Jonathan Brennan (2002)

Jonathan Brennan’s first exhibition since 2019 continues until October 30 in east Belfast.

Sense of Place, a new exhibition by multi-disciplinary artist Jonathan Brennan, has opened at Vault Artist Studios in Belfast.

Featuring all new work created in 2022, it’s Mr Brennan’s first solo exhibition since 2019 and, according to the artist, celebrates “atypical landscapes, places teetering on the edge, real views and imagined scenarios of Belfast and its surroundings”.

It continues at Mr Brennan’s studio in the Canteen Gallery at Vault Artist Studios on Tower Street until October 30.

A series of large oil-on-canvas, and acrylic-on-canvas, paintings celebrate places neglected and hidden, from warehouses to wastelands to buildings in need of preservation.

One series features buildings in the city centre, including the Cathedral Quarter. They are rendered as washed-out, ghostly after-images, as if already fading from memory. One work depicts a recently-demolished but previously perfectly-functional hotel, its lift shaft still standing amongst a pile of rubble.

The show also features experimental photographs in the form of a diptych created over the course of a year. Mr Brennan left a tiny pinhole camera on the roof of his studio to create two ‘solargraphs’ – long-exposure photographs that track the path of the sun. The volatility of leaving a ‘camera’ exposed to the elements for a year is seen in one of the final pieces where water got in and caused the photo emulsion to run.

Mr Brennan said: “I tried not to overthink what I wanted to paint – simply selecting vistas that grabbed me in some way – on walks, cycles, from bus windows, etc. – and began painting in a scale that I haven’t worked at before. 

“Looking back, they have a coherence I didn’t anticipate – some works show that line where nature rubs up against the urban, something which has always interested me.

“All feature in-between spaces, areas full of character that give a sense of place to our city, yet have been sadly neglected.”

He said last month’s fire at Cathedral Buildings in the Cathedral Quarter, home to many artists, demonstrated “how neglecting whole areas can lead not only to a loss of identity but also livelihood”.

Mr Brennan, who is from Dublin, has lived and worked in Belfast for the last 10 years. He works with various visual media such as printmaking, painting, video and photography. His works are in private collections in Europe and the US.

Sense of Place continues Friday to Sunday 12pm to 5pm until October 30, or by appointment, Vault Artist Studios are located at 4-84 Tower St, Belfast BT5 4FH