April 21 – May 30 / RCC Gallery 1 /
Curated by Gallery of Photography, this exhibition brings together two of Enda Bowe’s most significant projects to date. His open-ended visual narratives offer subtle new perspectives on life in contemporary Ireland.
For Love’s Fire Song, Bowe worked over an extended period of time with young people on both sides of Belfast’s peace walls, built to separate Unionist and Nationalist communities. While he concentrates on events around the symbolic bonfires held on the Twelfth of July and in August, in this work Bowe moves beyond established ways of picturing the city in order to pursue a quieter, more understated encounter with youth culture in Belfast today. Free from obvious signs of political and geographical context, or even reference to the specific locations where they were made, the photographs speak to a longing that encompasses the aspirations and vulnerabilities of young people in Belfast, who now find themselves facing an even more uncertain future. These intimate, cinematic portraits touch on a shared sense of joy and sorrow, independent of individual backgrounds, inherited sense of place or religious belief.
Similarly, Bowe’s project At Mirrored River considers a small, struggling industrial town in the Irish midlands, but it does not literally document the conditions that exist there. Bowe’s way of seeing is more intuitive and emotional, concerned with how people live, rather than social or historical fact. Again, his focus is on ordinary places and the experiences of young people whose lives have been impacted by changing social conditions. The project title was inspired by the Gaelic word teannalach (pron. “chann-ah-lack”) used in the West of Ireland, which means ‘awareness.’ In particular, it is an awareness of everything that is intangible and overlooked. Through his deeply empathetic portraiture and attentiveness to the everyday, Bowe is asking us to find genuine beauty where others might only see mundane situations, hope and optimism apart from the often destructive influence of history on the present. In these two projects he reaches for the universal themes of human experience by locating the commonalities that exist between seemingly disparate places and lives.
Artist’s Bio: Enda Bowe’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Red Hook Gallery, New York; Gallery of Photography Ireland; the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; the National Portrait Gallery, London; Fotohof, Salzburg; The Visual Centre Of Contemporary Art, Ireland and most recently in The Other Side, Dortmunder U, Dortmund, Germany. Bowe was the winner of the National Gallery of Ireland Zurich Portrait Prize and was runner up for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize in 2019. His collection of work At Mirrored River received the international Solas Photography Award 2015. He was nominated for the Prix Pictet Award 2016 and the Deutsche Borse Foundation Photography Prize 2016. In the UK his work has been shortlisted for the National Gallery Portrait Prize for 2019 for Love’s Fire Song. Bowe’s first monograph Kilburn Cherry was published by J&J Books and received the Birgit Skiold Artist Award 2014 from the Whitechapel Gallery, London. In self-publishing his photobook At Mirrored River the artist was kindly supported by the Victoria & Albert Museum, Oscar nominated directors Ken Loach and Lenny Abrahamson, and writer Colm Toibín. This book coincided with the exhibition of At Mirrored River at The Visual Centre of Contemporary Art, Ireland. His third monograph This Thing I Want. I Know Not What, inspired by Carson McCuller’s novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, was published by Paper Tiger Books in 2018.
Project supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Reconciliation Funds.