Eastern Promise For Belfast Artist

Gail Ritchie chosen to represent Northern Ireland at prestigious Beijing exhibition

Belfast artist Gail Richie is set to join artists from the Republic of Ireland and China for a special collaborative show in Beijing to celebrate contemporary Irish culture, as well as Ireland’s burgeoning links with China.

The exhibition will explore the impact on women during times of social and political upheaval, and is part of the Irish Wave 3 initiative, which will take place in arts venues in Shanghai and Beijing during March 2012.

The works produced by Richie for the exhibition were created during an Arts Council of Northern Ireland residency in Germany, and will be exhibited in Beijing thanks to additional support from the British Council.

Inspired by photographs, memorabilia and historical records collected in Belfast and Berlin from the World War II period, Richie’s work examines the fate of some of the many women and children whose lives were affected by the conflict. Throughout the series of paintings, an image of an elephant is used as a metaphor for remembering.

Commenting on the forthcoming exhibition, Richie said: 'I am delighted that I will be able to travel to Beijing for the opening as it will enable me to meet artists from the other side of the world and learn how their experiences as artists compare to mine.

'My work is informed by studying conflict, past and present,' she added, 'and I hope that the universality of this theme will be meaningful to a Chinese audience. As an artist, international exposure is vital for career development and this project is certainly a major achievement in my practice.'

Born in Newtownards, County Down, Richie has exhibited extensively throughout Ireland and has a growing reputation internationally. She graduated from the University of Ulster in 1991, and has since held residencies in Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris and exhibitions in Cuba, Spain and Japan.

She is a former member of Backwater Artists Group in Cork and is currently a member of Queen Street Studios in Belfast. Her work has been purchased for a number of important private and public collections.

Dr Suzanne Lyle, head of visual arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland believes that 'Gail’s exhibition in China will give international audiences a flavour of what [Northern Ireland[ has to offer'.

'To be invited to take part in a show like this is an incredible opportunity for any artist to take their career to that vital next level and develop their reputation internationally. It’s also a valuable chance to showcase Northern Ireland to the rest of the world through its defining assets, its arts and culture.'

Richie is one of only two artists based in Northern Ireland to be invited to take part in this significant show, and will join the Cork-born artist Annette Hennessey, now based in Antrim, at the exhibition in China.