The destruction, upheaval and physical pain of the Troubles inspired generations of artists to capture both the collective sense of fear and frustration – and the determination of ordinary people to get on with their lives.
While the countless wall murals across Northern Ireland remain the most obvious visual response of local communities, 60 thought-provoking artworks have been brought together for a major exhibition at the Ulster Museum.
Opening today, Art of the Troubles includes drawings, photographs, paintings, sculpture and video charting the turmoil spanning four decades. Among the 50 artists featured are works by Jack Pakenham, Rita Duffy, Joe McWilliams and Willie Doherty.
National Museums Northern Ireland’s head of art, Kim Mawhinney, said the exhibition brings to publc attention the responses and reflections of each artist.
“Although many of the individual pieces have been displayed previously in various settings, this is the first time work about the Troubles has been brought together on such a scale.
“A lot of the Troubles art is not the sort of literal, illustrative imagery that many people would assume it to be – it’s much more subtle than that. A lot of the messages that the artists are conveying are things like the unseen violence, the underlying tensions and victims,” she said.
Some of the works on display have been loaned from the Imperial War Museum’s Northern Ireland collection, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, from private collectors and from the artists themselves.
Dr Jim McGreevy, director of collections at National Museums NI, said the content reflected a “broad range of themes” but was not designed to be either a historical or comprehensive account of what happened over the years.
“We are conscious of the unresolved legacy of the Troubles and continuing sensitivities in our community,” he said.
“This exhibition offers avenues for exploring the ways in which the Troubles have been viewed by a range of artists and for reflecting upon the manifestations and impact of violence and division in our community.”
Art of the Troubles is being supported by a programme of activities including lectures, tours, workshops and film screenings.
It runs until September 7 and further information is available at www.nmni.com. Admission is free.