ULSTER GROUP 63. was formed in 1963 when a small group of artists decided that if they organised their own exhibitions collectively, they might make a bigger impact on the Ulster public...and they did, and subsequently have continued to do so individually! Six of these artists are being re-united to exhibit here at The Battletown Gallery, showcasing one earlier painting and two up-to-date pieces!
Malcolm Bennett was born in 1942 and has been active in the Irish art scene for over forty years. Indeed his first shows with the Caldwell were when the gallery was barely four years old itself. His style is strongly rooted in the Irish school of abstract landscape painting, the rich surfaces of his paintings displaying a remarkable insight into both his subject matter and understanding of the medium he uses. His work, while echoing places at home or abroad maintains an ethereal quality that takes the viewer on yet another journey, into an artist’s unique interpretation of place. Every image evokes a sense of the mystical and draws the viewer into his world. The rich surfaces display a remarkable insight to both subject and medium. Bennett is a widely travelled painter, he has visited Europe, Australia, Asia and America in search of new imagery, but always returns to Ireland to view the landscape with a fresh eye. Malcolm Bennett has been a regular contributor to major exhibitions in Ireland since the early 1960’s. These include Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Oireachtas, the RHA, Ulster Painting and the RUA. He has also exhibited since 1966 in Belfast, Dublin, London and abroad.
RICHARD J CROFT
Richard Croft was born in 1935 in London. He studied at Bromley College of Art 1951-55 and Brighton College of Art 1957-58. He came to Belfast in 1959 to Dunlambert School, Fortwilliam and then succeeded Wilfred Stewart as Head of Art at Annadale Grammar School. In 1966 he won a commended prize in the Gallagher Portrait Competition. A Royal Ulster Academician since 1969 and President 1997-2000, he makes images in oils, pastels, watercolour and print, sourced from the local area or from still life, which are all stamped with his personal vision of composition, colour and textures with a strong reliance on drawing. His work is represented in the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection, Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork, the Government of Northern Ireland Collection, the Northern Bank, London University, Oxford University and the Queen’s University of Belfast. Now retired from teaching, Croft has a studio in Dundrum, County Down. Describing his method of painting as ‘funambulism or tightrope walking’, Croft switches between abstraction and realism.
John Breakey was born in 1932. He studied first at Belfast College of Art from 1953-1958 then moved on to London to a place in the Slade School of Art 1958-1960 where he studied drawing, painting, etching and lithography. finishing there with the Slade Diploma of fine Art. He was elected an Academician of The Royal Ulster Academy of Arts, Vice President of the RUA 2003-2004 and honorary life member of the Ulster Arts Club. He has won many prizes and awards among them: the Travel award from the arts council of Northern Ireland in 1990, and a place at the Tamarind Institute New Mexico USA To study lithography. Also, the Travel Award to study Print Workshops in Paris in 1988, and a Major Award from Down District Council in 1980. He is represented in many collections worldwide like: Ulster Museum, London University, Oxford University, Cambridge University, University College Dublin, The Irish National Self-portrait Collection in the University of Limerick, Ulster Television, and the Department of the Environment.
Graham Gingles was born in 1943 and was educated at the Belfast College of Art. He has remained in Northern Ireland and had his first solo exhibition at the Arts Council Gallery in Belfast in 1981. Gingles is best known as a sculptor but he is also popular with mixed media painting, which is what he first experimented with. Gingles is particularly associated with contemporary Irish art and is always found to be seeking new ways of expressing his emotions, however, it seems to take him up to a year to complete a work of art. Graham has been known to exhibit both his paintings and sculptures at the same time. For example, in 2005, he had two exhibitions at the Peppercanister Gallery and also in a gallery in Dublin.
Brian Ferran was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1940 and was educated at Bera Academy of Fine Art in Milan. In order to make a living, Ferran trained as an art teacher and then taught from 1963-1966. He gave lectures in both universities and galleries in the USA.
In 1966, Brian became part of the staff at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, later becoming chief executive. He was also on a number of committees and boards including the British Council of Fine Art and the Crafts Council of Great Britain International Committee.
Ferran organised a collection of paintings and sculptures by five artists from Northern Ireland and exhibited them for the 1990 Houston International Festival in Texas, which then went on to Chicago, Boston, Springfield, Massachusetts, Waco in Texas and Portland, Indiana.
Jack Pakenham was born in Dublin in 1938 but grew up in Belfast, a background which would heavily influence his career. Graduating from Queen’s University, Belfast in French, Spanish and Philosophy (1938), he is largely self-taught as an artist and his work aims to confront the violence of the ‘Troubles.’ Pakenham started off as a poet and was a member of The Belfast Group, a guild which has claimed members such as Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon.
The artist’s ongoing engagement with Ulster’s troubled history has shaped his multiple solo shows including Here It Is: 1974 – 2014 at the Oriel Gallery. He was made a member of the Royal Ulster Academy in 1987.