Belfast-Type Pictures

Dougal McKenzie (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition


The starting point for this work is a paraphrase from Clement Greenberg’s 1955 essay ‘American-Type Painting’: “The devolution of tradition cannot take place except in the presence of tradition.” I considered this observation of Greenberg’s (addressing the challenges for contemporary American abstract painting at that time) as having a co-incidental yet contemporary parallel to the contexts of identity tradition and political inertia here in Northern Ireland. The works contained within the exhibition therefore sought to call into question what, if anything, is representable in painting today. Although using a resolutely abstract idiom, the paintings took certain visual prompts from two particular films, and also used stills from these in the related slide show. ‘Policeday’ (1976) was a promotional film made for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which in essence avoided all representations of The Troubles. The second film showed original footage of the old Royal Avenue Hotel, which was situated one block from the current exhibition location. This film was a more truthful representation of Belfast, circa1970s, and moved between interior shots of the hotel and bomb damage outside. A key visual reference in the slide show is taken from ‘Policeday’, in which a mock car crash has been set-up to show the collision of a red, yellow and blue car. I link this image to a colour diagram from Nelson Goodman’s ‘Languages of Art’ (1976), which illustrates how language and colour perceptions are comprehended differently. Another important factor is that the paintings and slide show were made as a single, site-specific installation for the gallery space. As well as having a close proximity to the site of the Royal Avenue Hotel, the gallery space itself retains many of its original architectural features. The encountered experience therefore is one of a white cube converted exhibition space, with many of its old features exposed both underfoot and overhead. The over-all effect of the exhibition therefore aimed to create a sense of time-shifts between the gallery space and the work contained within. The exhibition also extends my research interests in historiography, visual narrative and site-specific approaches in painting.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationPS², Spencer House, 69-71 Royal Avenue, Belfast.
PublisherPS2 Gallery
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Feb 2019


  • Representation, Painting, History, Narrative, Abstraction, Belfast


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