Kelly Gallagher's Perceptions

Click Play Video to watch an online exhibition, and discover how the county Down artist transforms her perceptions into paintings

Using acrylic and charcoal on canvas, Kelly Gallagher's Perceptions takes a look at Northern Ireland's quickly-changing landscape and offers the opportunity to stop and think about the pace of progression.

The exhibition opens in Downpatrick's Down Arts Centre, after which Gallagher hopes to bring it to Belfast's Art & Business gallery.

Amongst the images that make up Perceptions, 'In The Thick of It' catches the speed, pressure and motion that a fast-paced outlook brings. It's an image that takes photography as its departure point.

'Most of the work I do begins with photographs. I work quite loosely from these, taking ideas, taking shapes and forms, then start off with sketches to generate ideas. 

'I draw you to the one figure, in the centre, which is the figure I see 'in the thick of it'. With today's society you haven't got time to stop and think, everything's moving so fast.' 

Upon graduating, Gallagher was awarded the Diageo Emerging Artist of the Year award. In 2006 she took up the Art & Business Individual Artist Commission Programme, which matches eight artists with eight commercial entities.

Gallagher was matched with Barnabus Ventures, and following that was commissioned by the high street retailer, Debenhams.

'The Debenhams commission took place just after graduation,' says Gallagher, who has found plenty of opportunities to expose her work. 'I was commissioned to do around 30 pieces of work for the Craigavon and Newry stores.

'It was a tight timescale - I think it was six weeks, pretty fast - and I was straight into it. A great opportunity, great to get a commission so quickly.'

The conventional wisdom is that artists in NI suffer from a lack of opportunity when compared to artists practising in England or the other UK regions.

Perhaps more so than university graduates in other disciplines, artists are apprehensive about their chances of making a living from their passions.

'There are definitely lots of fears,' says Gallagher. 'I think that in art college, it's not geared so much towards equipping you for what you do when you leave. You just go out there and find your feet.'

Gallagher's efforts to find opportunity are paying off. The internet is another avenue for exposure, and one need only take a cursory glance at websites like MySpace to find a raft of photographers, illustrators, painters and designers promoting their work.

Amidst the pressure to get their work out there, is there a danger that artists might peak too early, generating exposure for work that might pale in years to come?

'I think there's pressure to get your work out there, yes, and a lot of artists are self-critical of their own stuff. There's work you've done before and you do look back, thinking that the work's not, maybe, what you thought it was at the time.

'There's a lot of art out there on the internet. With time being as it is there's pressure but yes, you don't want to put stuff until it's of the best standard.' 

Kiran Acharya

Details of Kelly Gallagher's current exhibitions can be found on her website.