Expanded Studios Project

Participating artists based in Belfast: Alex BruntBarry MulhollandHannah McBrideDeclan ProctorEsther O’Kelly; Zara Lyness; Gerard Carson; Sinéad Bhreathnach-Cashell; Robin Price; Jackie Wylie; Thomas Wells; Heather Dornan Wilson; Sinead McKeever; Grace McMurray.

This project invites dialogue and exchange between 14 Belfast-based visual artists, and 14 counterparts from Primary- Nottingham. The project is designed to offer a catalyst for new collaborations, the production of new work, exposure to different skills and approaches, and an enhanced network of practitioners, organisations and audiences in another region of the UK. The Belfast participants are based across different artists studios in Belfast. These include: Vault Artist Studios, QSS (Queen St Studios)FLAX StudiosArray StudiosCreative Exchange Artists StudiosPlatform ArtsPollen Studios; PS²

What form will the project take?
The content of the programme will be generated by the participants to remain bespoke and responsive to their needs. Self-directed activity will be encouraged between collaborating pairs – in the form of presentations/ performances/ screenings, a website and artist-facing sharing mechanism. Public and more broadly peer-facing outcomes include a touring exhibition between both sites, and a symposium/ knowledge sharing event. Proposed considerations throughout:

-How do Belfast and Nottingham differ as places to work/ live as artists?
-How do our cities, as cities of culture, continue to support individual artists, studios and the sector?
How might divergent media/ approaches find commonalities?
- How do both Belfast and Midlands-based artists feel about working together and further afield after Brexit?
-Why artists travel - how do we navigate the 'luxury' of being able to travel freely? And why is it important to have a wide network and collaborate nationally and internationally?

A highly successful pilot programme for The Expanded Studio Programme ran in late 2014/ early 2015 with artists from Primary and Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge, entering into a three-month period of dialogue and exchange catalyst for new collaborations, producing new work over a four-month period of exchange. You can read more about this pilot project here
This project was initiated and cuarted by PS² Curator in Residence Jane Morrow and is now curated by Deirdre Morrissey.

Frottage of Esthers Ladder by Chris Lewis Jones, Artist based at Primary Nottingham.

Frottage of Esthers Ladder by Chris Lewis Jones, Artist based at Primary Nottingham.

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The first visit of the Belfast based artists to Nottingham will take place between 23- 26 April.


I was delighted to be asked back to paint at HTN18. I returned to paint on North Street alongside some of the most internationally star studded line up to date.

From Colombia to Australia and Portadown to Poleglass, street artists and muralists came to the city on 20th & 21st September to bring their unique brand of colour, flair and creativity to radically transform the Northside of the city centre.

There wasd international depth to this year’s programme featuring artists from Belgium (Dzia), Italy (Alice Pasquini), Holland (Nol) Australia (Danni Simpson), Switzerland (Sonic Oner), Colombia (Sancho MDN & Visual) joined by artists from the UK and for the first time this year Tape That from Berlin. Tape That installed their artwork at the Bullitt Hotel on 18th & 19th September before moving over to Blaklist for the main festival on 20th & 21st September.

This year's line up included AnnatomixTape ThatRogue-one (graffiti)Danni Simpson ArtSonic onerDzia & SonsAlice PasquiniConzo ThrobCiaran GlöbelSancho Mdn, Visual, Michael Nol, KVLR, FrizJMK ART, DMC, EmicVerz Art, FGB ,  Rob Hilken - Visual ArtistLeo Boyd & Laura NelsonHolly Pereira Illustration, Wee Nuls, Gary Real RoweDoc, Morgy, Conor McClure Illustration, Voms, Shuk, ADW artistCaoilfhionn Hanton ArtKathrina Rupit - Kinmx, Rask, Aches, Emmalene ArtMARK_one_SZOVanessa PowerShane O Malley Art, Novice, Mack, Ominus Omin, Vents Dublin, Stay Lo, So Fly, SUBSET & Esther O'Kelly Artist,

Hit the North Street Art Festival was established by Seedhead Arts and the Community Arts Partnership in 2013 as a response to vacant space along North Street and to transform the streets of the Cathedral Quarter. It has become one of the biggest street art festivals in Ireland and attracts artists from across Europe.




Images by @campbellphotography

Artist Launch at Pigyard

Gorgeously colourful abstract canvases by emerging artist Esther O'Kelly.

In the same way that a flower fragrance or a tune takes us back to a special place and time, the Belfast- based artist uses her paintings to explore familiar memories and experiences, at once universal and personal, of growing up in Rosslare. This is O'Kelly's second one person show at the Pigyard. We have great hopes for her fine art career and viewing is recommended.


Esther O'Kelly and author Cat Hogan, guest speaker at Esther's exhibition of paintings, 'To & Fro in My Dreams', which opened on Friday. Two Wexford artists who share a maritime background.

Just for one day. The 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement as depicted by Esther O’Kelly


‘Keening is a traditional form of vocal lament for the dead. In Ireland and Scotland it is customary for women to wail or keen at funerals. Keening has also been used as part of civil disobedience and protest.’ 

‘Keening’ is a collection of paintings informed by my own experience of living in Belfast in the shadow of conflict. Using memory and intuition, the work intends to evoke the everyday spirit of Belfast, to define our sense of place and community. These paintings look beyond the illusion of talks and deals to everyday life. They explore the raw beauty of who we are, our basic need to live in peace, in this place where the violent echoes of our past are still reverberating. 

I see The Good Friday Agreement as a vessel that holds the grief of a community in escrow. These paintings explore our fragile human state, how we experience loss and how we haveagreed to place our trust in such a fragile concept as a peace deal. The Good Friday Agreement honours our connection to the past and promises to shape our future, but Stormont now stands as an abandoned house. All the while lives are lived and lost, children have come and gone, family life continues to be sucked into the passage of time and the precious moments we live for are fleeting.  

The venue for ‘Keening’ is Joan’s Hair Salon. A place where everyday life takes place, where we laugh, gossip, cry and grieve. A place at the heart of our community, a place to be vulnerable. A place where we reveal the hidden elements below the skin of this place called home. 


Belfast Bankers Group Show

Saturday November 18th our studio take over Framewerk Gallery. Featuring the paintings, sculpture, photography and sound stylings of the Belfast Bankers.


Hit The North, Collaboration.

Hit the North was a great success, full credit to Seedhead Arts for pulling off such a fantastic festival. Over 40 Local and International artists painting the streets of Belfast during Culture Night! what a buzz. I painted a wall on Kent Street, it lasted a few hours before being bombed. While I'm not impressed with the Clandestine tagging of my work, Neuf got there before me, albeit a week after I was first assigned the wall.

Neuf Said.

CAPTURED: Rich, Rugged and Fresh, Goose Lane Gallery, Belfast, Review.

Sincere thanks to Slavka Sverakova who took the time to review our Belfast Bankers Group Show. 

Here is a little of what she had to say, full review listed below.

'Esther O’Kelly exhibited four paintings, installed on two walls of a corner. Bachelard infused corners with added poetry, so I am inclined to note each separately and as a group.

the titles suggest  that any narrative I may attach to viewing it should not share the same root – one connects to an opera, the other to an ocean . Is it visible?  I sense that it does not aim to insist on the title to determine the visual thoughts locked in the hues, tonality and brushstrokes.  This painter’s personal palette connects more to art than to observed nature.   In the way she positions  difference over the whole, however, is responsive to the timing in an opera  made of many defines parts clearly delineated,  and an ocean as powerful unity of its, mostly hidden, parts.  One is open to narrative exploration of differences, the other overwhelms by  hiding them under the surface of oneness.  A plausible register of possibilities.  I cherish the power  of both paintings to make visible the moment of  a hue asserting its presence without a conflict.  The open divided brushstroke accepts the calmer  fluency of the others, even when provoked by clashing lines of a bigger shape.  But in there is a notable knot: what if it muddles the visual poetry of the whole?  One possible outcome is the successful  grounding the imagined in the remembered. obse  I sense that  this painter never holds the memory responsible, preferring invention, fresh   opening up to dreaming up  relationship among the  brushmarks. . A sort of spanner in the works- if the works are expected to tell of a past experience Instead – the paintings evoke an experience of  making up playful multiple meanings.'


Opera Festival 120cm x 100cm

Opera Festival 120cm x 100cm


'Mighty Ocean Deep' 50 x 70cm


This year's headliners Nomad Clan, Dan Kitchener and Irony are joined by KVLR, Friz, JMK, Visual Waste, Emic, Verz, Rob Hilkin, Conor McClure, DMC, Tweet, Glen Molloy, Leo Boyd, Jess Tobin, Faigy, Caoilfhionn, Hanton, Lisa Murphy, The Drif (New York), KinMX (Mexico), Iljin, Marka Mix (Southy Africa), Aches, Emma Blake, Artista, Sophie Robson, Voms, ADW, Rask, Cheba, Sil, Le Bas, Easi, Noys, FGB, Esther O’Kelly and Art by Eoin.

And there's more than just live street art. Here's the full timetable for this year's Hit the North Festival

7-24 September - The Hit the North Exhibition - The National

4-8pm Live Painting across the Cathedral Quarter.

8-11pm Real Sketchy at the Dirty Onion
A super-sized version of our regular drink and draw night where we'll be projecting your sketches on the side of a building

2-4pm Hit the North Conference at Community Arts Partnership

Hear the stories and inspiration behind some of the artists painting at this years festival.

4-8pm Live Painting across the Cathedral Quarter.

4-10pm The Big Woolly Wall on North Street
A giant Brick themed yarn-bomb

8pm-late Hit the North Closing Party at Underground Records
with headliner Adesse Versions


Hit the North is a project of the Community Arts Partnership who work with Seedhead Arts to deliver the project. It is made possible thanks to the support of Becks, Belfast City Council, Arts & Business, Community Relations Council and the Dept of Communities. Hit the North is also only made possible with the support of HSS, Ink Monkey, The Black Box, The Sunflower, Aether & Echo and a long list of artists and individuals.

Image: Campbell Photography

Image: Campbell Photography