Sylvia Grace Borda - 20 January to 2 March 2012
Belfast Exposed is pleased to present new work by Canadian artist Sylvia Grace Borda. Borda is interested in exploring the architectural legacy of Modernism in Northern Ireland and has made a photographic survey of its modernist churches. Borda spent 2 years journeying through Northern Ireland, seeking out and photographing its churches. The result is an extensive photographic typology, which forms a contemporary portrait of Northern Ireland, and its unchronicled Modernist past.
Modernist civic buildings in Northern Ireland have been characteristically imposing, adopting brutalist architectural strategies. Many of its modernist churches however have aspired to be ethereal and open. These designs reflected the Modernist 1960s idea that architecture had a potential, through spatial openness, to improve social and political lives. Modernist churches employed architectural designs that did not privilege one particular faith over another. It is almost impossible to examine the structural form of many churches and readily distinguish the associated faith.
As a Canadian-born artist who has lived and worked in Northern Ireland for a number of years, Borda is interested in re-addressing public views of Northern Ireland, and questioning familiar, often stereotypical and divisive, representations of its landscape and cultural heritage. She uses the idea of the tour to explore Northern Ireland from an outsider perspective and proposes a kind of unconventional tourism, which highlights hidden corners and unfamiliar aspects of the country's built heritage. The work subtly references Northern Ireland's growing tourism industry, as well as the history of the Grand Tour.
Churches is an exhibition in 3 parts. At the front of the gallery is a display cabinet containing a series of ceramic objects loaned from antique shops and official Government collections in Northern Ireland. The traditional souvenir plate was popular as a token of remembrance, and was often associated with travel and the depiction of picturesque locales. The main gallery space hosts an installation of photo-printed, ceramic plates, entitled Coming to the Table and a video projection of over 100 unnamed modernist churches from across Northern Ireland.
Sylvia Grace Borda is an artist and Research Associate at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver. She has studied Fine Arts at the University of British Columbia (MFA) and Media & Photography at Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (BFA).
Solo exhibitions include Cameras and Watercolour Sunsets, CSA Space Vancouver (2010); A Holiday in Glenrothes, Royal Institute of Architect's Scotland Gallery, Edinburgh (2008); EK Modernism, CSA Space (2007); New Town Passages, EKAC Galleries, Glasgow (2006); Minimalist Portraits, SAW Art Gallery, Ottawa (2005); and Every Bus Stop in Surrey, BC Surrey Art Gallery, Canada (2005).
Sylvia Grace Borda has received a number of public grants and awards including City of Richmond Public Art Commssion: No.4 Pump Station (2010-11), Cultural Capital of Canada Artist status award in combination with Cultural Olympiad project status for the Winter Olympics (2008-10), the Innovation Award, The Lighthouse Gallery Glasgow (2006), and the Urban Culture Award (through the Millennium Commission, Cities of Culture Liverpool) for 2005-07.
Churches is supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and the Department of Social Development. Belfast Exposed would like to thank Diane Leeman at City Hall, Frances Leneghan at Stormont Estate, Laurence Johnston at Archives Antique Centre and Kim Mawhinney, Head of Art at National Museums Northern Ireland for their support for this exhibition.