Artist paints a story of pain and suffering during Troubles years

Artist Colin Davidson, whose exhibition Silent Testimony opens at the Ulster Museum on Friday
Artist Colin Davidson, whose exhibition Silent Testimony opens at the Ulster Museum on Friday

Portraits of 18 lesser known victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles form a major new artistic exhibition highlighting the suffering and loss wrought by the conflict.

The large-scale paintings by acclaimed Co Down artist Colin Davidson are going on display in the Ulster Museum in Belfast under the collective title Silent Testimony.

Mr Davidson is better known for painting famous actors, musicians, poets and writers.

The men and women captured in the latest exhibition have no such public profile.

However all were injured or bereaved in the Troubles.

The artist, whose previous works hang in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, said the paintings “rest on the foundation of common humanity”.

“I have looked at each person as a fellow human being – labels or identity were never of primary importance,” said Mr Davidson.

“Whilst each of the portraits is personal, Silent Testimony is an emotive response which reflects on how the conflict has had, and continues to have, a profound effect on not just the 18 sitters, but thousands of individuals – the injured, their families, the families of those who died and the wider community.”

Kim Mawhinney, head of art at National Museums Northern Ireland, said the exhibition was “thoughtful and intimate”.

“Colin has shown a remarkable ability to convey the complexity and depth of emotion in each sitter which makes for an incredibly poignant exhibition,” she said.

The programme will include a lecture by Mr Davidson at the Ulster Museum on June 26, as well as gallery talks, tours and art workshops.

The exhibition opens today and will run until January. Admission is free.

The artist worked in partnership with cross-community victims’ support group WAVE throughout the project.