Late Night Art

Anne-Marie Marquess takes a magical mystery tour in the land of Late Night Art

The fifth Late Night Art event takes place with two coaches of avid art lovers boarded to tour selected art galleries in the centre of Belfast. Accompanying them are local artists, Susan McKeever and Rhonda Hunter, to guide proceedings.

The meeting point is again Ormeau Baths Art Gallery where Ciara Hickey, the education officer talks briefly about the gallery's latest exhibition featuring the work of Roderick Buchanan. Then it's all aboard the bus for the first stop on our whistle stop tour, the Naughton Gallery at Queens.

A beautiful and grand location, it provides the setting for the Davy Portrait Awards 2008, where an array of faces peer from the walls - a diverse collection of impressive portraits from Irish artists.

The flawless 'Colley' is at the pinnacle of photo-realism - the viewer must look very closely to believe it’s actually a painting. Others like 'Figure C3:10' are more expressionist in their style.

The painting 'Teresa' by Francis O’Toole also stands out, a moody impressionist piece with an intricate dark wood frame. It brings to mind the classical painters of the past and the romantic tradition of art.

Time to hit the open road again before arriving at An Culturlaan Irish Centre in West Belfast. It houses the Gerard Dillon Gallery, named after the famous artist from the Falls Road. Striking, brightly coloured vibrant images and a Santas Grotto greet us, along with several bottles of wine.

Next, a little hidden gem - or should that be hedge? The Hedge Art Space is a house on Willowbank Gardens, just off the Antrim Road in north Belfast, home of artist Lesley Cherry. Her current exhibition, along with artist Deirdre Robb, is entitled Northern Light / Eastern Star. Cherry’s fantastical images of white horses mix with Robb’s colourful abstracts. And Cherry makes a great mulled wine! 

Cherry's  images of horses are carnivalesque. They look like they have just escaped from a carousel and been given free reign to run free. Horses that can’t be tamed, their white colouring contrasts with their colourful ribbons and saddles. 

The Cathedral Quarter is next on the itinerary with a quick look at the film In Time – Episodes in PS2, a bizarre insight into the world of Latin American dancing schools in eastern Europe. Some beautiful settings and snazzy dancing are on view and it's all strangely interesting.

Golden Thread Gallery is tonight's final stop. This gallery was originally located on the Crumlin road on the site of an old flax mill. The flax that was spun was also called golden thread, hence the moniker. 

Late Night Art wraps up in The Black Box where mice pies and mulled wine await. Apparently the polish journalists that also attend the tour don't know what a mince pie is. But neither do the people they asked! For all those who ever wondered, they don’t actually contain meat, but mixed fruit.
It seems that Belfast is a city with a healthy appetite for late night art. The numbers are almost doubling with every tour. With the next event scheduled for February 2009, Late Night Art looks set to keep growing, just as the number of art galleries and venues housing art work expand. You might not be able to afford the paintings, but you can certainly afford to take a look. 

Check out for a Belfast gallery map and tour, public art trail, online exhibitions and reviews of all the best public and private art galleries in Belfast city.