Since 2009 Robb has been creating a series of Billboards. She is the brainchild behind Art In The Eastside which is the biggest outdoor visual arts exhibition in Ireland. It showcases work by local, national and international contemporary artists. Managed by Creative Exchange where Robb is a resident artist and oversees the management of the project. Her intention is connect people to and reflect the uniqueness of East Belfast. Recognising that East Belfast is a community undergoing transition and is a area that suffers from political and social unrest, Art In The Eastside seeks to counter negativity through a creative energy which is celebratory, thought-provoking and engaging.
Green, Red, Blue? The Colour That Runs Through My Veins
Deirdre Robb’s latest billboard creation was located 165 Newtownards Road, Belfast. The billboard was part of Creative Exchange Art In The Eastside project that took part in the Ulster Bank Festival at Queen’s 20th october – 4th November 2014. ‘This sculptural work examines perceptions of cultural identity and is connected to conflict in recent years of the artist native home of Belfast as well as at a global level with countries experiencing political and social unrest. The work stems from observations of people’s preoccupation with national identity leading to racism, hate crimes and intolerance of other cultures. The use of cultural icons, flags and colour are used not just to symbolize their own identity, it is used to exclude others. This work is deliberately aggressive and is used to represent the pain of war and oppression. Artistically, the work is also a play on the colour model Green, Red and Blue and has been used here both literally and metaphorically. The more we combine and integrate these colours/nationalities the far greater, richer and more interesting experiences we will encounter. Visually, the blue is hidden, as is the real colour of blood that runs through all our veins.’
‘Super Guerilla Knitters’ was inspired by the infamous ‘Pussy Riot’, a Russian feminist punk-rock protest group. The women wear brightly coloured balaclavas and until their arrest and imprisonment in 2012, staged unauthorised provocative guerrilla performances highlighting political issues (such as feminism, LGBT rights, opposition to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and links between the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin). Robb admired their courage and was outraged when 3 members were charged with hooliganism and imprisoned after the performance ‘Punk Prayer’. With her work Robb aims to acknowledge their campaign, support their creativity and reaffirm their determination and passion. As a native of Belfast, Robb combines these themes with a response to local politics, representing terrorism, ‘the troubles” and the on going disaffected ‘Peace Process’. She makes commentary on the historical and current use of balaclavas, local protests, freedom of expression and the limitations of women’s position in the politics of Northern Ireland.
Girl.com is a collage artwork that is a response to women in East Belfast. Robb illustrated the combination of modern urban influences helping to shape the role of contemporary women, whilst residing in what is still a patriarchal community of traditional values. These contradictions challenge their individuality, but as opposed to becoming modern or traditional they morph into a combination of wife, mother and career woman aiming to be ‘all thing to all people’. They are strong and independent as they push their own boundaries and comfort zones transcending into modern day wonder women. This artwork took part in the 2011 Art in the Eastside project that was officially opened by the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson.
The Giants – Robb aimed to celebrate the industry of the shipyard Harland & Wolff where the cranes are situated. She wanted to create a strong historic feel to the work and makes mention of the change in industry. Most important to her to make their significance in the Belfast skyline which she encounters daily.
Stormont – Robb used drawing as the medium for this work, exploring the many iconic landmarks in East Belfast. She created a series of work that explored the shipyard, famous people and buildings with a historical significance to the east of the city. The Stormont Building was selected by the panel and represents the political past, present and future of the area and of Northern Ireland, where all parties, no matter what their view, sit as part of the democratic process. The striking yellow tone used in the background represents the industrial heritage of East Belfast, as well as being a metaphor for positive and forward thinking decision making, in this monumental and important institution.
The Millie’s In this work, Robb celebrates the hidden industrial population of the female workforce, who once filled the Mills of East Belfast. History paints an image of industry in East Belfast, focusing on the male dominated workforce of the shipyards and the aircraft factory, yet the mills were a vital part of the development of this area whose workforce was predominately female. In this graphic-style work, Robb highlights the importance of these women and acknowledges the difficulties they encountered. Often working in very harsh conditions for long hours and receiving pitiful wages, the women were still stoic, committed and highly skilled. This work highlights their struggle and asks if it is not time that their ‘hidden history’ should be told.
Respect Everyone’s Journey
Respect Everyone’s Journey With kind permission from the DOE, Robb was inspired and influenced by their 2012 advertising campaign, which highlights the need for everyone to respect each other’s journey and to practice due consideration when using the public highway. Using a local resident as the model for her work, staging the photograph along Bloomfield Avenue, a popular shopping area and through artistic interpretation, Robb uses strong diagonals and colours, leading the eye to the main message – Respect Everyone’s Journey – that can be interpreted literally or as a metaphor for life. The text and colour of the image is deliberately reminiscent of sci-fi films and is intended to encourage you to think of ‘the extraordinary’.
East The Great
‘East the Great’ this artwork was created for Art In The Eastside 2010. It was the pilot project that has now become one of the largest outdoor exhibitions in Ireland. 9 Creative Exchange artists created new works for presentation on the Billboards as part of the ‘Ulster Bank festival of Queen’s’. Robb created this work in response to the history of the East Belfast area aiming to help the community in the area to recognise the many great things that has stemmed from East Belfast and has international acclaim. http://artintheeastside.wordpress.com/art-in-the-eastside-2010/