Giant Murals Recounting Northern Irish Strife to be Featured in Bapst Library

(6-17-98) -- Beginning next week, Bapst Library will host an exhibition of paintings by three Northern Irish artists whose murals in the Catholic "Bogside" neighborhood of Derry have been among the signature political artworks of the Ulster strife.

The exhibition of works by Kevin Hasson and brothers Willie and Tom Kelly - known collectively as the Bogside Artists - opens June 25 and runs through July 15. "The Troubles: From Protest to Peace" features 16 large-scale paintings and 17 photographs that chronicle the tensions in Northern Ireland over three decades.

The artists will attend an opening reception at Bapst Library on June 25 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The show coincides with the annual Gaelic Roots music festival at Boston College, and opens a month after Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, an architect of the recent Northern Ireland peace accord, delivered the address at the University's Commencement Exercises.

The building-side murals of the Bogside Artists have formed a painted backdrop to years of turmoil in Derry, defiantly marking the boundaries of the Bogside neighborhood while rallying the nationalist spirit of the Catholic residents within.

One of their better known works depicts a young boy wearing a gas mask and readying a Molotov cocktail during the "Bloody Sunday" clash between Catholic protesters and British troops in 1972.

The Bapst exhibit will feature eight-square-foot models of murals that cover the entire sides of buildings in the Bogside.

"You can't miss their work - their "Bloody Sunday" mural is about 25 feet tall," said exhibit organizer Prof. John Michalczyk (Fine Arts), who is making a documentary on the political murals of Northern Ireland. "They don't mince words. Some of them are very tough and the early ones, particularly, are very anti-British."

Yet the tone of the murals has changed as Northern Ireland has moved toward peace, said Michalczyk, indicating what he described as "an evolution in the artists' consciences toward support for peace."

In the early years, the Irish Republican Army figured heavily in the muralists' work "as guardians of the territory and protectors of the neighborhood," said Michalczyk, while emphasis today is placed on events from Irish national history, such as the 1798 Rebellion and the Great Famine. He noted one mural done since the Good Friday peace accord that has a theme of resurrection.

The murals of the Bogside Artists figure prominently in a recent documentary by Michalczyk, "Out of the Ashes: Northern Ireland's Fragile Peace," which is due to air on WGBH-TV, Channel 2, in Boston on July 20 at 10 p.m. The artists were also featured in a recent BBC documentary, which will be shown at the exhibit in Bapst Library.

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