Birth of a Nation – 1 of 3 IRISH WAVE exhibitions

Birth of a Nation, IRISH WAVE 2016

P1190311 copyThis post will take a very brief overview of the main exhibition “ Birth of a Nation” held at the beautiful old warehouse space NING SPACE in 798. Only some of the works are mentioned here.

IMG_2364 copyThe three March exhibitions focused on themes of nationhood and cultural identity as part of Irish Wave’s mission to promote multicultural artistic exchanges. The starting point is the Easter Rising which took place in Dublin in 1916 which is taken from different perspectives and set within the context of the First World War allowing artists from across the globe to respond.

opening NING


Curated by: Fion Gunn, Gail Ritchie, Niamh Cunningham, assistant curators Patrick Ketch and Steve Chen and Chinese co-ordinator Glassia Lu in collaboration with Ning Zhang of NING SPACE 798.


Many thanks to Ambassador Paul Kavanagh and Rosemary Kavanagh who took great interest and time exploring the works at the opening and cultural attaché John Lynam. Also speaking at the event was Tim Losty of the Northern Irish Bureau. And a very big thank you to Ning Zhang for facilitating this exhibition at her wonderful gallery space.

Gail & AmbassadorPlease refer to the link below for a full account of images.

Ursula Burke (NI), Sean Campbell (NI), Pam Carroll (UK), Chuan San (China), Chen Meitsen (Taiwan), Chu You Ye (China),Tom Climent (Ireland), Joan Coen (Ireland), Elizabeth Cope (Ireland), Niamh Cunningham (Ireland/China), Raphael Fenton-Spaid (USA) Sara Fox (NI), Fu Xiaotong (China), Gao Yuan (Taiwan), Anita Glesta (Australia), Guan Wei (Australia/China), Gulistan (China), Fion Gunn (Ireland/UK), Han Qi (China), Pamela  Hardesty (Ireland), Annette Hennessey (Ireland/NI), Ashley Holmes (NI), Patty Hudak (USA/Ireland), Dorothy Hunter (NI) Jia You Guang  (China), Monika Lin (USA/China), Meng Liping (China), Michael Lisle-Taylor (UK), Liu Xu(China), Liu Junli(China, Liu Yi Chao(China, Lizhen (China), Luo Ying (China), Dara McGrath (Ireland), Mary Mackey (Ireland), Audrey Mullins (Ireland/UK), Suzy O’Mullane (Ireland), Pan Yiqun (China), REDIC (USA/China), Gail Ritchie (NI), Shao Kang (China), Sridhar Ramasami (USA/China), Jennifer Trouton (NI), David Turner (NI), Tina Whelan (Ireland), Wang Ning (China),  Wu Jian (China), Wu Jun (China), Wu Wei (China), Wu Yan Xi (China), Yan Feng (China), Yu Ajun (China),  Zhang Xin (China), Zhu Weibin (China)

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Maps and flag references were dispersed throughout the exhibition. Gallery goers were greeted by work of three Irish artists as they entered the gallery. Tom Climents abstracted boundaries and maps were the first works to greet visitors.







Nearby were Suzy O Mullanes decontextualised Virgin Mary references shifting position slightly. The shaky theme continues with Sean Campbell’s maps of wobbly outlines of the British Isles with his signature crouching soldiers suspended with magnets.







On the front space is Jennifer Trouton’s “All that Remains”, Fion Gunn’s Rising city and Chuan San’s Drum Beat. Jennifer Trouton (award winner of this years Golden Fleece) applied d cal prints on watercolour paper some using old prints of business and landowners documents and bookkeeping and other sources.

On the far side of this space was Pan Yi Qun’s passengers in wax







Moving into the main space .








Gulistan’s headless ‘ Reader’ is next to Ashley Holmes acrylic on paper of dual sided American Gothic architecture.

NS.伍伟《光与黑暗 2》 纸 Wu Wei, Light and Darkness 2, paper, 110 x 90cm, 2015 copy






Near by is Wu Wei’s tiny paper cuts of what appear like bejewelled microbes .

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The tall central space was divided by 6 meter vertical Mongolian banners by Jia Youguang. (These were a feat to install building tall scaffolding enabled the independent hanging that was required). The efforts were worth it as it invited the viewer to stretch their veiwpoint up to the full height of the room, it also connected the upper level of the space where the exhibition continued.

David Turners ‘Preconceptions’ hama bead portraits of leaders in their youth Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela and Lenin.

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Meanwhile closer to the ground the long horizontal of Shao Kangs “Back to the Future” scroll also made a diagonal division on the floor space. The scroll on first glance looks like a traditional ancient scroll but is far from it on closer inspection, a space age fantasy using a variety of twisted tales taken from familiar events in time.

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Fion Gunn’s ‘Sailing Past’ shows a plethera of seafaring vessels with different national perspectives passing by a limited view of a port hole window. Zhu Weibin’s dense monochrome is next to Wang Ning’s red spine. ‘Only a bit of Cloth’ is a newly constructed flag crocheted using strips of the tricolour and Union Jack by Sarah Fox . And moving from flags to map themes is Yang Feng’s mixed media canvas of Map No 2 .

Audrey Mullins


Audrey Mullins series of delicate oval mixed media drawing print collages are next to Countess’s gun.


Next to Mullins was Yu Ajun’s ‘Hutong story’ which has references to photographs of previous inhabitiants. The old photograph theme continues with Annette Hennessys gun.




Some works directly referred to the rebel leaders of 1916 such as Countess Markievicz gun by Annette Hennessy. A velvet replica of the gun in the photo which was shown next to the work ( photo of the Countess courtesy of the National Library of Ireland ).

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All the leaders of the rising expected to die and prepared for this by documenting posed photographs. Although sentenced to death Countess Markievicz was not executed, in 1918 was the first woman to be elected to British Parliament refusing to take her seat and in 1919 was a member of the first Irish Parliament (Dail) and became the first Irish Cabinet minister serving as Minister for labour from 1919 to 1922.


While guiding a tour of the exhibition we arrived at Gail Ritchies ‘Sherd Island’. I attempted to explain the play on the word Sherd Shard and Shared which was perhaps lost on my listeners but when I explained the porcelain pieces broken into county devisions great interest was taken with the patterns on porcelain a few of which were familiar chinese patterns.

NS. Gail Ritchie- Sherd Island watercolour 70x50cm 2016 copy


The breaking up of old pottery on farmsteads and the scattering of the crumbled cooked clay on farmers fields was a new notion considered that afternoon in the gallery. Also considering that some of the china pottery would be local but some would have been imported from China. And so some parts of cooked china clay would be scattered on those fields also . This notion got plenty of oohs and ahhs.



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Next to Ritchies Island is Fu Xiaotongs” 305,440 holes” Her handmade rice paper is pierced with a special tool to raise the surface in a certain pattern. Fu Xiao Tong has two other installations in this show. Compass is a Chinese imperial dragon walking stick and (what she referred to as) a traditional Englishman’s walking stick constructed into a compass where one culture can be used to pin while the other can be used to navigate. The other installation by the same artist is “Rotate the arm” a balanced mechanical arm gently moving like a grandfather clock on those moments when there was silence in the gallery.

Tom Climents abstracted maps reappear in a long strip leading down to a metal like story book “Sisters’ by Annette Hennessy telling the story of the girls who dressed as men so they could serve .”Stateman” a mono print of Roman bust by the writer.

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Han Qi’s delicate reconstructed organic tree trunk is next to Guan Weis ‘Day after Tomorrow’ which hints at the more recent refugee crises on European water. Gail Ritchie’s Ancestoral Memories placed over Fu Xiao Tongs compass.

Li Zhen’s portraits of well known artists Cai Weilian and Pan Yuliang both trained in France.

On the opposite side is Tina Whelans textile and long plait ‘Home Rule not Rome’ caused a stir of questions on the guided tour… wanting to know if Ireland shared traditions of the long plait of hair in our history. (See two photos below )



A special space for the two video installations by reknowned Anita Glesta, courtesy of Dame Jillian Sackler International Artists Exhibition program, Arthur M Sackler Museum of Art and Archaelogy at Peking University. One work called ‘Guernicka, 9/11’ explored parallels of the two atrocities and the second work ‘Gernicka/Guernica’ is an immersive combination of interviews with actual survivors of the 1937 bombing when the interviewees recalled the event as children.

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On the opposite wall was Chen Meitsens “Suriving the Ruins” series of digital prints. Around the corner are Meng Liping’s ‘Hey Hey Hey’ and ‘The Long March- insert V for victory’. The textile in the centre ‘When I was 11’ by the writer and below is Ursula Burkes small porcelain work ‘Super Mario’.

Niamh Cunningham - When I was 11

NS.Ursula Burke Super Mario Porcelain and Underglaze 2012 copy






Michael Lisle Taylor’s ‘Drawing closer to Gjöll’ maps of medieval superstitions of places which were considered as gateways to Hell. Behind me is Luo Yings ‘Lotus shoes for small foot binding”.




Pam Carrol’s lead work ‘Blast and Patty Hudaks ‘Monkey Buisness’ were suspensions.


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Sridhar Ramasami’s medieval warrior frog pointed visitors upstairs.

On the second level were Michael Lisle Taylors blueprint ‘Ginnungagap’ next to Dara Mc Grath’s ‘Maze’ series where he documented the prison several years after its closure but shortly before it was completely erased to the ground.


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Next to that was Fenton Spaids ‘Spamalot’ and Dorothy Hunters ‘Wiki loves Monuments’ , Fion Gunn’s ‘Witnesses’, Suzy O Mullanes ‘Pink Coffin’ next to Zhu Weibin’s lined network canvas.

P1190618 (1)The last two works over look the gallery space with Patty Hudaks ‘Rise up’.



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And Pamela Hardesty’s reworked victorian textile where new bleeding paths extend to shamrock patterns entitled a ‘Terrible Beauty’. On one of the guided tours one of the visitors (Chinese) who had studied Irish Literature in Trinity a few years back and took great interest in the work as she recalled Yeats poetry.



For more details on the show please see