Catalyst: IWM North

The Imperial War Museum North has a new exhibition ‘Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War’. Included is work by Willie Doherty and Paul Seawright. In the e-catalogue accompanying the exhibition is an interview with Paul Seawright. In this extract he discusses his work and Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography:

When people write about art practice in Northern Ireland in relation to the Troubles, one of the easy, maybe overly simplistic comparisons they make is art practice, and particularly photographic art practice, my practice, is a response to the media representation of Northern Ireland. Actually there’s a big show just on at the minute in Belfast [Northern Ireland: 30 Years of Photography] and Colin Graham in the … wonderful text in the book that accompanies the show, argues that is part of the narrative but it’s only a small part of the story and there are many other factors. And I think that’s true, it’s a little bit over simplisitic to say that photographic art practice that deals with conflict and the language of fine art and contemporary art is a response to the media representation, but it is partially true.

As a young art student in England looking at the representation of the place I’d grown up in, very frustrating because of course what accompanied that was me meeting people from England and them telling me what they thought of Northern Ireland, what they understood about it and it fitted pretty broadly with the crude representation of the place. So that did unlock some things I guess, in terms of wanting to make a different response, but that wasn’t the whole picture. In fact Colin Graham argues that there’s as much an aesthetic response, the kind of work I made in the mid 1980s, Sectarian Murder, was as much a response to what was going on in photography at the time as it was responding to the media, and I think that’s true.

 Paul Seawright in Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War (Imperial War Museum, e-catalogue, 2013), pp. 50-51

See the full catalogue here.

Exhibition at IWM North, 12 October 2013 to 23 February 2014


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