Ten Years of the Naughton Gallery

A rummage through the box of delights that is the Queen's Collection

To celebrate its tenth birthday, the good folks at the Naughton Gallery at Queen's have delved into the university's impressive permanent collection of artworks, and many significant pieces are on show for the next month or so.

The Queen’s Collection currently boasts over 1,000 pieces from around the globe. Some of those pieces can be viewed by (observant) university students in various buildings across the campus, but have never been collected and exhibited to the general public before.

Having steadily built its reputation since 2001, the Naughton Gallery is now an internationally renowned venue that curates approximately eight shows per year and regularly attracts international heavyweights such as David Mach, as well as showcasing Irish artists.

This collection aims to present a cross-section of the ever-evolving Queen’s Collection – with an emphasis on contemporary art – displaying works across a range of media including screen-printing, painting, photography and sculpture. There are 20 original pieces featured.

Emerging Northern Irish artist, Francis McCrory’s ‘The Curzon Film Theatre’ brings a smile to anyone old enough to remember the beloved cinema, with its shabby exterior and crumbly romance. It’s a beautifully rendered piece, an exercise in nostalgia that is neither twee nor overly sentimental.

Two photography exhibits – Paul Seawright’s ‘Untitled (Green Wall)’ and Ron Haviv’s ‘A Serb gets his hair cut during the early days of the war in Croatia, Summer 1991’ – could both perhaps have been better positioned in the room.

The latter photograph is large, colourful and blurry, and to fully appreciate the art involved in ‘catching the moment’ it perhaps requires more space around it. The uber-talented Seawright’s piece is, as usual, subtle and multi-layered, and would also benefit from a more prominent position in the very long room.

Turner Prize-nominated David Mach’s screen-print ‘Phut, Phit’ is quite different from his typically intricate collages, sculptures and paintings, but is just as impressive, albeit in an altogether simpler fashion.

Perhaps the most striking creation is Darren Murray’s 'Cymbidium' (pictured above), an impressive interpretation of a particular type of orchid. The impact on the viewer has much to do with the physical size of the work (it’s by far the largest piece) but also his choice of colours: the bright crimson juxtaposed against cobalt blue assaults one’s senses.

The marvellously talented Gemma Anderson, a Northern Irish artist whose work is held in several prestigious collections, such as the Natural History Museum in London, is represented here by one of the three pieces currently held by the Queen’s Collection. ‘Giant Prickly Pear Cactus’ is a work of almost unbearable delicacy, a copper etching painstakingly coloured using Japanese paints. Quite beautiful.

The late George Campbell, one of Ireland’s best-known landscape painters, contributes two paintings to the exhibition, both of which were previously on display in Queen’s Student Union, but now hang in the Institute of Irish Studies.

These paintings – ‘City Episode’ and ‘Confrontation’ – are exceptionally dark both in tone and subject matter. Campbell’s paintings have always stood out from the often predictable Irish landscape crowd, and it’s a privilege to see these works up-close-and-personal.

Neisha Allen’s ‘Pebbles with Red Flower’, meanwhile, is another standout piece. Whilst not quite photo-realist (due to the unusual and slightly abstract composition), Allen’s precision with the paintbrush should be highly commended.

The wonderfully named Graham Gingles provides the most interesting sculpture with ‘The House of Wonders’. An intricately crafted piece, it demands that the viewer contort into all sorts of odd shapes, all the better to see inside this meticulously designed box of delights.

Collection: 10 Years of The Naughton Gallery, Queen’s University also features stellar works from John Keane, Bob Sloan, Comhghall Casey, Richard Croft, Gary Shaw, Mike Hogg, Raymond Henshaw, TP Flanaghan, Philip Flanaghan and Lisa Malone.

If you appreciate good art, and want to see the best that Northern Ireland has to offer, then you should certainly make your way to Queen's. One of the exhibitions of the year, surely. 

Collection: 10 Years of the Naughton Gallery runs until October 2.