Turbulence at The Model Gallery.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea.
– Robert Monro

The exhibition Turbulence presents the work of artists working in the growing tradition of reframing historic events in the form of thought provoking work and aims to provide insight into the unprecedented refugee crisis, inviting direct involvement from the public. The word turbulence suggests a weather disturbance, and provides an analogy for the staggering 65 million people which according to a UNHCR report have recently left their home countries, the majority escaping war or socio-political upheaval, resulting in great global consequences.

The show brings together the work of eight international artists: Rosella Biscotti from Italy, Elaine Hoey and Eoin McHugh from Ireland, Gulsun Karamustafa and Cenaiz Tekin from Turkey, Naiza Khan from Pakistan, Sarah Wood from England, and as a point of convergence the artist Jack B. Yeats, whose paintings depicted the displacement people came to experience in the aftermath of WWII.

Little has changed since and the endless exodus past and present connects artists in pursuit of understanding. Throughout the exhibit the representation of water on film becomes a primary motif, its unpredictable force establishes parallels with that of a landscape inundated with waves of people rushing into exile.

Sara Woods’ remarkable documentary essay arranges footage to create vignettes, commenting on events and past travels and the central role of water as the means of transport chosen by many generations across the globe. The film displays in rapid succession scenes of hope and heartache; personal belongings left behind; the nostalgia emanating from familiar sounds and colours. A glimpse of a shipwreck: board games, papers and a body floating adrift signalling a catastrophic end for some.

Relevant to the theme is the novelty of Virtual Reality 3D work from Irish artist Elaine Hoey. Her installation entices the viewer to walk in the shoes of a refugee by literally taking a seat in a boat. We find ourselves in a path to our own conscience in a computer generated ghostly journey. Shadows surround us and a sense of danger looms, only to be confronted point blank with a gigantic notice board that questions one’s indifference to the fate of millions of human beings left to fend for themselves in the dangerous sea. The image of the lifeless body of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi washed ashore in Turkey comes to mind…

Optimistically this exhibition will bring reflection over concealed fear, or possibly open hostility towards refugees, and assists to initiate a new era of empathy for people escaping trouble. In looking into our genealogy we can all find a migrant or refugee.

Written by Sara Villarreal de Hough

Sara Villarreal de Hough is an artist recently graduated from a BA in Fine Arts in IT Sligo, she is concerned with socially engaged art. She lives and works in Roscommon.

Turbulence is at The Model Gallery, Sligo, 2nd December 2017 – 22 April 2018.