Sense of Place

Oil and acrylic on canvas paintings, drawings, screenprints, exhibition (2022)

‘Sense of Place’ opened Friday 14 October and continued until 30 October at Vault Artist Studios.

A new exhibition by multi-disciplinary artist Jonathan Brennan opens in the ‘Canteen Gallery’ in the artist’s studio at Vault Artist Studios (14 October, 6-9PM). Featuring all new work created in 2022, this is Brennan’s first solo exhibition since 2019 and celebrates atypical landscapes, places teetering on the edge, real views and imagined scenarios of Belfast and its surroundings.

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 like some bizarre funerary monument.

The show also features experimental photographs in the form of a diptych created over the course of a year. Brennan left a tiny pinhole camera on the roof of his studio (itself home to over 100 artists and marked for re-development next year) 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.

Referring to ‘Sense of Place’, Brennan says:

‘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. A recent fire shows how neglecting whole areas can lead not only to a loss of identity but also livelihood.