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The Odd Collection

February 2019

Cabinets of Curiosity, also known as ‘wonder rooms’ have displayed collections since at least the 1500’s. They have been used to categorise natural history objects, tell stories about the world and it’s history (sometimes not letting the truth get in the way of a good story) and served to establish a social ranking in society. The Odd Collection exhibition was inspired by the odd collection of favoured objects and the collection of odd objects that find their way into our homes and especially artists studios.

With invited artists, we will convert the Pollen Gallery into a 'wonder room', with a nod to the history of museum natural science collections and wink to the possibilities of undiscovered treasures.

We were pleased to welcome Amanda Croft for two morning of artist talks, enjoyed by visitors and artists, and the conversation that followed afterwards. We also welcomed the Friday Seminar student group from Belfast School of Art, many of whom had already visited the exhibition during the Late Night Art opening.


Participating artists : Aimee Magee, Aisling Magee, Aisling O’Beirn, Alice Clark, Deirdre McKenna, Jayne Cherry, Jenny Davies, Johanna Leech, Kate Ritchie, Locky Morris, Nathan Crothers, Sharon Adams, SInéad Breathnach-Cashell, Zara Lyness


Aisling O.Beirn

O’ Beirn’s current work explores space as a physical structure and political entity by making and animating forms relating to observed and theoretical structures being studied by contemporary astronomers and physicists. Much of my recent research, facilitated by Armagh Observatory, Dunsink Observatory and The Centre for Astronomy NUIG, Galway is an extension of previous work on the relationship between the politics of place uncovering the tensions between disparate forms of official and of unofficial information.

This work is interdisciplinary, exploring the relationship between art and science. It manifests variously as sculpture, installation, animation and site-specific projects. Documentation of my previous work can be seen on

O’ Beirn is based in Belfast and has exhibited nationally and internationally. She was on of the artists chosen for Northern Ireland’s first participation in the 51st Venice Biennale. She is a member of the group Centrifugal consisting of artists architects, theorists and curators from Zagreb Helsinki and Belfast, investigating the notion of periferality in a European context. She is also a cow founder of CROW (City Right of Way) organising monthly walks in Belfast.

O’ Beirn is also an Associate Lecturer in Sculpture at the University of Ulster

‘Transit’  video, 1min 10 sec

With special thanks to John McFarland of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

Locky Morris

Small extract from an essay written by Anne Tallentire for an upcoming publication, with reference, in part, to his Instagram project 'especiallyeverything' @lockymorrisartist    

'(It) is perhaps useful when thinking how the unexpected and unpredictable observations that inform Morris’s work give agency to the activities of his everyday. In his notation and exploration of what surprises, excites and puzzles him in and around his neighbourhood we encounter his practice. ....The terrain that is his neighbourhood has been the subject of Morris’s work for the last three decades... '

Extract from especiallyeverything - the practices of Locky Morris by Anne Tallentire  

Alice Clark

A Cabinet of Curiosity is a curious concept and feels like a throw back to an era of exploration and discovery. But as artists, and as people, we are all collectors of one sort or another. I find myself reflecting on my art practice and how my attention is always drawn to objects of little value except for how unusual or beautiful they are.

My cabinet is a collection of found boxes and drawers mostly filled with small objects from nature or small found objects of culture. These are the objects with a history for me and the curiosity will be for the viewer to find the connections between them. My recent practice has involved walking and one of the activities while walking is collecting discarded or lost small items. It is my intervention walking the landscape and collecting which gives these objects their mutual history and connectivity.

The stacked boxes with their compartments are also reminiscent of the rooms of a doll’s house, the classically female equivalent of a cabinet of curiosity. I have curated a collection of ready-mades with a narrative informed by my art practice and my way of living.

Jenny Davies

Observing the human form provides a viewer the prospect of interpreting the size, shape and nuances of colour and texture of the person, contained within the figure. This process leads the viewer to investigate and translate clues to construct the physical and emotional history.

Johanna Leech

My practice stems from a broad fascination with the world around me. Realised through: drawing; archives; digital imagery; interactive social practice; story; moving image; and installation. My work has an informal archival feel of association that contains moments of the unexpected. These allow the viewer to create their own narratives as they are brought through unusual rumors, local lore, historic or accurate happenings to moments of collective consciousness.

The viewer is presented with an amalgam of installations, minimalist drawing and make-shift collections. Stemming from a lifelong obsession with collecting, the subject matter combines influences from travel, social interactions, history, iconography, myths, legends and museum categorization. These are presented in humourous ways that entice the viewer to decipher connections and explore the multiple narratives set before them.I see my art practice as an adventure.  I’m an explorer presenting my discoveries. I select and create imagery that draws in the viewer through the familiar and the commonplace.

For further information

Kate Ritchie

My art is about the aesthetics of everyday experience of the world, both natural and man-made, and about man’s impact on the environment. My recent practice involves walking the coastline, and collecting marine litter, principally plastic waste, which I then sort and classify, combining it in assemblages, sculptures and installations in the studio. While walking I notice and photograph ephemeral beach “art”, made by the action of wind and tide, and I make my own ephemeral assemblages of found materials which I record by photography and video. I aim to evoke in the viewer of my work some interest in, and appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of the materials and objects I select. I hope to stimulate reflection on environmental issues. In a small perhaps futile way, by collecting and re-using and recycling this marine litter, I also contribute to cleaning the coast.

Sharon Adams:

Sharon Adams is an applied artist who lives and works in rural Co Antrim. After living in London for over 20 years, it was the experience of attending art school in Brighton (2008-2011) that brought Sharon back to live and work in the townland where she was born and raised and where her father’s family have farmed for five generations.

Sharon’s practice became personal when she connected her love of working wood and metal with the inherent beauty of simple tools and machinery, objects which had populated the landscape of her agricultural childhood, and been left in a forgotten past. Just as she emerged from office life and picked up a hammer, Apple launched the iPad, telling us ‘you already know how to use it’. Even the physicality of skilled work was being reduced to a lowest common denominator of clicking and scrolling.

Since 2004 Sharon’s father has recorded the daily rainfall. This material record of the Frocess townland is the starting point for Sharon’s piece in The Odd Collection. Thorns extracted from farm hedges represent the monthly rainfall, and imagined tools suggest the gathering of raindrops.

Further info:

Nathan Crothers

Nathan Crothers’ practice investigates the potential of moving image within the white cube environment. Challenging how image is constructed, encountered and interpreted. His work aims to offer alternative ways of experiencing narrative in contrast to traditional viewing conventions of cinema and theatre. 

His current work is concerned with the internet and how truth and meaning function online. Focusing on the consumption of media and examining how users engage in online activities, with an aim of developing an understanding to what extent the internet underpins daily life.

Within his work, he often appropriates popular culture, specifically using film, television and web media, as a vehicle to explore ideas of authorship and copyright. His work critiques institutional, political and cultural hierarchies, questioning the complacency of how the world is viewed.

Jayne Cherry

Cherry makes art to try to comprehend her personal experiences and emotional wanderings.Visiting the subject of death holds an intrigue and a restorative exploration. Using intricate investigations with drawing, painting, needlework, installation and live art performances she attempts to decipher any

covert signs and leave clues that may be helpful to those who come behind her. Life as a nurse and organic farmer informs her interactions between flora, fauna of the earth and humans.

Zara Lyness

My drive is to make work that sparks recognition in the viewer and generate conversations relating to personal histories. The exhibition title ‘The Odd Collection’ made me think about the treasures we box and hoard. Reflecting on the close association between Cabinets of Curiosity and the development of the feminine version of dolls houses I remembered my own treasured hoard.

As children, we improvised, imagined and made objects through play. My dolls house links inherited items and the material research and creations of childhood with studio crafted objects. A miniature reflection of training for domesticity. 

Aisling Magee

Flights of fancy, hoarded feathers,

Plucked up from beaches by small hands,

quickly hidden, in coat pockets, before parental eyes.

“Cool Coins” first seen on a footpath,

A falcon on a two pence piece!

Such excitement, discovering, in usually routine.

Experiences of places, countries and of cultures,

Many far-flung trips to find friends,

Badges earned, skills learnt. Eagerly worn with pride.

Childhood treasure, a teenage joy,

Imagining flights of fancy,

Adult intrigue, altogether, an artist’s box of dreams.

Collecting has always been intriguing for me. As a child I would often collect feathers, stones, animal skeletons and insects. This interest morphed into a coin collection as I grew up. When I joined Girl Guiding I became interested in collecting badges from countries that I’ve visited and experiences that I’ve had. In the artist travelling box are some of the “odd collections” that have become a part of my life and which have informed my artistic practice.

Aimee Magee

Aimee Magee studied Art Foundation in Ulster University, before completing her Sculpture BA in Wimbledon College of Art and Erasmus studies in Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. 

She is currently working on her practice as a member of Pollen Studios Belfast. 

This work, inspired by home brewing, the circus and the mysticism of cabinets of curiosity, is an ongoing investigation into the use of materials which are kind to the environment, such as bread dough, as a way to make art whilst sparking intrigue and conversation. 

Deirdre McKenna

From foraging and fortune-telling to fermentation, "Half-Baked" nods toward doing things for yourself and living life with an open mind.

Sinéad Breathnach-Cashell

Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell's practice thrives on finding social interaction in the most unlikely places. She can often be encountered with playmates plundering the streets of Belfast and abroad, making playful interventions in search of a beach under the pavement. Her cabinet of curiosities is just a glimpse of some of the tools of her trade, which have surprised airport security guards during bags searches as she travels to perform.

Deirdre McKenna

The nature of my work stems from my desire to visualise stories, while allowing room for the viewer to extend upon the narrative or meaning. The outcomes of my practice, results in a broad material, visual & conceptual manifestation. I feel a great need to be free of a “signature” type approach to what I do, and aim to offer viewers a vision of something with integrity, both in its conceptual value and artistic realisation.  Each work has its own statement to make. I make work that is of an auto/biographical nature, preferring to take a more oblique angle. 

McKenna’s practice incorporates sculpture, installation, lens, audio, painting and curation. 

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