Belfast :: Berlin
Belfast and Berlin are the great political islands in the European subcontinent. It is never possible to know whether they are representatives of a kind of situation that we have collectively left behind—a kind of vestigial political wing—or if they are closer to the type of situation that we are in the process of creating for ourselves at the moment—or are they simply what they are—strange and unique? In essence we want to know whether they are part of our past, present or future. These cities are the public manifestation of the tragedy of difference extended into an extreme socio-political complexity. Within the relative calm and refinement of European culture today there is (still) a war in Ulster, and an extraordinary wound running through what was once the capital of Prussia. That there are reasons for this situation does little to mitigate the fact that although there is an exhilaration (to life in Berlin) and a strain (I assume, to life in Belfast, although I've never been there), it is as a psychological analogue for internal strife that these conditions of “learning to live with tension” take on personal meaning.
Artists have always responded impulsively to “the land” — historically basing the response on the beauty, novelty, power, or meaning as a homeland, and more recently as a signifier of current environmental and political forces. These depictions of the land have always been linked to the particular problems, questions and perceptions that the artist brings to the work. The two works in this exhibition are not so much history painting as they are a registration of painting as a method in art to depict an atmosphere. Indeed Burrell Swartz has described his Berlin Landscape From The Fourteenth Floor as follows: “Berlin 1986 — I had a chance to stay above the ‘wall;’ the immense no man's land; the omni-present guns; the remnants of history; the Futuristic Orwellian East; all gave lies to the fabled city of the West. And yet out of the original ‘sand and swamp' now naked and exposed, arose the great life-giving force that has always given Berlin its special quality — its atmosphere."
The “Irish predicament” which is actually the “Anglo-Irish predicament,” is theoretically irresolvable without a victory of military proportions for one side, or a yielding by one side with the subsequent losses that would entail, Sibeal Foyle describes her paintings as capturing this harsh and seemingly timeless struggle for Ireland between Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants: "The first two panels depict the Catholics in their procession (during 'Our Lady's Month’) of the Blessed Virgin Mary…the third panel depicts the Orangemen — who do not recognize the Virgin Mary on the same light — in a symbolic representation of the 12th of July Parade of the Protestants.”