When Void gallery re opens its extended space on the first floor of the old shirt factory on Patrick Street tomorrow evening it will be the product of 10 years of hard work.
The gallery’s first entirely photographic exhibition exploring the theme of love entitled, ‘A Many Splintered Thing’, will be unveiled to the public from 6pm.
Void has extended an open welcome to anyone who wants to come along and as gallery director Maoliossa Boyle points out that invitation is on offer all year round. Because as the new upstairs space makes the gallery more accessible in a physical sense, work behind scenes with an audience engagement programme has seen Void reach out to the public rather than waiting for them to come through the doors. The purpose of both moves is to ensure that people know that the gallery belongs to them.
“We know that galleries can be austere and difficult places for some people,” said Maoliossa who has been at the heart of Void since it opened in 2005.
“We also know that a large percentage of people don’t feel that contemporary art is for them but art belongs to everyone. It’s what makes us human, our ability to explore issues and possibility of understanding them better through art.”
The addition of a process room, a space aside from the exhibition, in which people can explore themes around the work on display has meant that the gallery has seen a surge in the number of people coming through the doors. It’s a space designed for workshops, reading groups or just to sit and have a coffee.
But it was during the City of Culture year in 2013 that the gallery discovered that they had outgrown the basement space which it had started with.
“It was a simple case of more people coming through the doors in 2013 and a realisation that we needed to engage with people in a different way,” said Maoliosa.
“We had known for a few years that we had outgrown the downstairs space and we had plans for more ambitious exhibitions which we couldn’t have done without the move. We also realised that we needed alternative ways of bringing people into the gallery and that’s what the engagement programme led by Sally (Murphy) has been focused on.
“We are a publicly funded gallery and felt that it was vital to let people know that the gallery belonged to them and that we needed to find ways that we could help them understand and explore the exhibitions.
“We had a great response to our exhibition on civil rights. People weren’t only learning about their own history they were able to place it in the context of black civil rights and our relationship to that.
“A lot of the programme for the coming year is politics based and the themes are quite heavy. ‘A Many Splintered Thing’ is by four women who grew up in Russia in the 1980s and while the central theme is love, there is also a chance to look at the social and poltical history of that time. Later in the year there will be an exhibition exploring the Vietnam war and what life is like there now and then Void will be showing work around the drug cartels in Juarez, Mexico.
“Our remit at Void is that we show work by internationally renowned and Irish artists. When the Orchard Gallery shut in 2003 the board of directors at Void felt that it was important for us to show work that could compete internationally otherwise people would travel to Belfast or to Dublin to see work of that calibre.
“What we are showing at Void is what you would expect to see at a comparable gallery in London or New York. It’s cutting edge stuff, exploring and provoking discussion on contemporary issues. Our theme for the coming year is very much the artists as enquirer or dectective. It’s about using art to help us better understand or question the world around us.” Re launch is tomorrow from 6 to 8pm.