Review of Interface Images by Ian Hill
Belfast Exposed is a community resource photographic centre recording its own visual responses to the city’s plight and Frankie Quinn, a founder member, is one of its stars.
His current exhibition, Peaceline – 25 years of division, seen briefly before and not too well displayed at the group’s own place, is now elegantly and chillingly presented in the Old Museum. The sixteen, bigger than A4, crisp, black-and-white prints are wry, poignant, evocative and angry in turn, visual observations on the city’s peacelines, from Ballymurphy in the west to the Short Strand in the east, from the absurdly inappropriately named Alliance Avenue in the north to Roden Street in the south.
Begun in despair in 1969 by a British Army unable to contain violence emanating from both communities, their erection was accompanied by a promise of their impermanence. They are, of course, still with us, clematis-clad as the photographer shows, for instance, on Cupar Way in the Shankill, and indeed at a fringe meeting at the recent Economy of the Arts Conference in Dublin the imaginative and provocative suggestion was made that these Berlin Walls should not be demolished; rather, with EC arts millions, they should be preserved as a focal icon.
Be that as it might be, Quinn’s often stunning images, deserve study. Inevitably children (as in the recent media front page responses to the ceasefire) feature strongly, playing with replica guns, playing over army vehicles, standing grubbily, dark angels, defiant or running about their business as Belfast burns behind them. Alternatively old ladies peer suspiciously from the doorways of mean, red-brick terraces, or thick-stockined and head-scarved, look back as JCB’s demolish. Hard men lounge on 11th Night bonfire detritus; behind them, runs the device One Queen One Crown No Pope in Our Town. Houses stand in isolation in a grey mist.
In a particularly surreal vision, worthy of Dario Fo or Duchamp, a clean, architectural designer-feature separates adjoining, neat, cherry-treed gardens off the Albertbridge Road. In another, a man steps through a door in a vast, dark, oppressive wall, entering perhaps, another land. An accompanying book Interface Images can not quite do justice to Quinn’s skill as a printer and Ronan Bennett’s contentious introduction - in which not one iota of responsibility for the city’s woes can be laid at the door of the Nationalist community – also does not appear to do full justice to the breadth of Quinn’s perceived perceptions.
The Irish Times