Sabina Mac Mahon
‘An Ulaid – South Down Society of Modern Art’
Belfast Exposed and Queen Street Studios, Belfast
16 January – 28 February
Sabina Mac Mahon’s research project, An Ulaid – South Down Society of Modern Art, is displayed in two different venues in Belfast: Belfast Exposed Photography and Queen Street Studios & Gallery.
Belfast Exposed’s downstairs gallery bears all the familiar hallmarks of a museum-based show, in which factual information and a collection of artefacts are utilised to construct characters and tell a story. The open layout – vitrines, free-standing and wall-mounted display cases, framed archival photographs and an abundance of wall panels – provides detailed information on a group of seven artists: Maimie Campbell, Pauline Doyle, Edward Hollywood, Sarah Leonard, Iris McAragh, Heber O’Neill and Thomas Pettit, who co-founded the South Down Society of Modern Art in rural Northern Ireland in 1927.
Mac Mahon has included an incredible amount of detail in the texts incorporated in the exhibition, which appear to be thoroughly researched and chart the formation of the group, their inspirations, travels, influences, styles, output and eventual decline in 1930. Hand-written postcards, aged and frayed, contain correspondence between the members whilst abroad. Black and white photographs show a group of smiling young artists and the spaces and places where they grew up and in which their meetings and art making took place. Even the biscuit tin in which Mac Mahon found the memorabilia that initiated her research project sits on a plinth under a protective case.