This month's show features the Art of the Troubles exhibition at the Ulster Museum, political cartoonist Ian Knox and photographer Bobbie Hanvey.
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Welcome to The Arts Show. As elections loom on the near horizon,
we'll be looking at the art of politics.
This year is also the 50th year since the launch of BBC Two.
We'll be dusting off some moments from the archives a little later.
Here's what's coming up.
Created for BBC Two Northern Ireland, we look back at Alan Clarke
and Danny Boyle's groundbreaking Troubles drama Elephant.
Renowned political cartoonist Ian Knox invites us to join him in his
studio, where he combines artistic ability and social commentary.
Veteran journalist Eamonn Mallie gives us
his take on the thought-provoking exhibition
Art Of The Troubles in Belfast's Ulster Museum.
And, Noel Thompson meets a man who has been documenting life here,
including our politics, since the '70s - photographer Bobbie Hanvey.
I'm here in the Linen Hall Library in Belfast,
home to the Northern Ireland Political Collection,
a huge body of local political literature and artefacts.
John Killen is librarian here, author of The Unkindest Cut:
A Cartoon History Of Ulster in the 20th century.
How far back do cartoons go?
In our context, the cartoon really is
an 18th-century manifestation
of political satire.
It goes back to James Gillray in the 1770s, '80s, '90s.
There are two that he did in June 1798,
during the Rebellion, United Irishmen In Training,
and you can see he's already using the very coarse features
that were very prominent in the 19th century.
It's almost we're monkeys.
The simianisation of the Irish face.
They knew who they were writing for,
and they were writing for a specific audience.
That specific audience was the literate
classes in the United Kingdom.
With the spread of printing and newspapers and magazines in the 19th
and certainly into the 20th century, it becomes how we view ourselves.
This illustration, it's a little book, printed in Belfast, 1892,
and it's called The Diary Of An Irish Cabinet Minister.
You can see this melee, a sort of free-for-all.
-All hell has broken loose.
-This is local.
-This is local.
This is where we begin to look at ourselves.
The people change, but the politics don't.
That seems to be the way.
There's a cartoon by Rowel Friers that appeared in the Irish Times
showing the ballot box in one hand
and the Armalite in the other.
-60 years earlier, in Punch, we have this cartoon.
There's the ballot box again.
There's the ballot box again, and the pistol.
And the fact that the likes of Rowel Friers,
I grew up on his political cartoons,
and Ian Knox is the current social commentator,
did they have to have a huge knowledge
of previous cartoon history?
Is that almost coming with the job?
The two that you mentioned,
they have their own intellectual view
of not just life, but of art, as well.
And it's a symbiotic combination of that in the cartoonist.
And that's what gives their personal slant on the issues of the day,
but also the way they depict it in art.
-And, of course, they have to be funny.
The best cartoons would bring a laugh or anger in an instant.
Cartoons are very much like a joke.
If you have to explain it, it's not worth telling.
The punchline has to be got immediately,
and the best cartoonists are masters at this.
John Killen, thank you so much.
We're going to bring Ulster cartoons right up-to-date.
You may not know him, but you will most definitely know his work.
Cartoonist Ian Knox has been documenting political life here
through his cartoons for nearly a quarter of a century
for the Irish News, and you will know his work
from BBC Northern Ireland's
former political programme Hearts And Minds.
We went to his Belfast studio to witness his quick wit
and his even quicker drawing skills.
Order, order, order!
It's a matter of pride for me that I draw things the way I want.
It's ideas-driven. It's a high form of activity. But it ain't art.
I always hope my mirror to what the world will be really distorted!
That's what I do.
I'm a distorter of the truth, and a bringer of the truth,
but I do it through distortion.
And the more distorted, the better.
I like surreal worlds,
that the punter sees something bizarre and weird.
People like a fantasy world in a political cartoon.
They like to be taken slightly away from the grim reality
into a slightly different kind of grim reality.
The political cartoonist knows which props to throw into corners
and how to light the thing, how to make the composition work.
Satire's about getting at the truth, it's not necessarily...
Although you may go overboard to caricature it,
you're not actually trying to come up with
something that isn't the truth.
If you were, people would soon get fed up with it.
Edwin certainly was quite statuesque in his individuality.
He doesn't have a short neck.
I construct the character I want to be in my cartoon.
And I give them the personality I think they ought to have.
I don't study them to see what they're actually like.
Nigel Dodds, looking the way he does, he makes my job much easier.
He has something of the night about him, I think.
I definitely think of him as somebody who you would see
as the light's beginning to fade
somewhere in North Belfast, near an old ruined building.
Gerry Adams is one of the very few upper-teeth men.
And, of course, Ian Paisley is probably the only person
who's caricatured all around the world, as he was,
with his mouth open.
He's never shown with his mouth closed.
That's what caricature's all about, really,
finding that thing which is unique and putting it down,
and not just the way it is - the way it isn't.
I do four of these each week for the Irish News.
Which is as much as I possibly could do, I think.
I'm getting on, you know.
I operate on panic, due to basic laziness.
So, if there wasn't something like a deadline,
I would never, ever do anything at all.
So, there's panic, and then there's insight, then there's genius.
And then there's the drawing, and then you relax until tomorrow.
Political issues are fascinating.
The world is all about political issues.
It's not a job I would ever in a million years want to do.
I wouldn't be any good at it.
I can't organise anything.
I'd be totally useless. I'd only make the problems worse.
But that doesn't stop me
having a go at other people who get it wrong, as well.
I draw for a paper which is predominantly nationalist,
or non-unionist, and yet nearly all the feedback I get,
rightly, from politicians is from unionists.
They're the ones who want originals, not the nationalists.
There's a kind of discipline about nationalists
which means that the cartoons are not quite as funny.
The whole world of unionism is much wilder and wackier.
Well, we have this extraordinary Keystone Cop-type day
with the UDA driving into Larne and taking it over
and doing pretty much what they wanted.
So, it struck me that all the money that's been pumped into the UDA,
they should really invest in a fleet of their own official cars
so they could go on patrol up front.
I suppose I want people, when they see the cartoon,
to think, "He's got it exactly right."
And, "That's very funny," and to laugh and be entertained by it.
I don't expect to change their point of view. It'd be nice if they did.
The way I do it is I mainly slightly subvert their preconceptions.
That's the most, I think, I could aim for.
But the day I actually think that I'm changing people's minds
is the day that you can send for the guys in the white coats.
Because that'll never happen.
And if I ever think that that's happening, I'm going to jack it in.
Currently running at the Ulster Museum in Belfast
is a major exhibition, Art Of The Troubles.
In partnership with Wolverhampton Art Gallery, it's a challenging
and sometimes controversial body of work.
Eamonn Mallie was a reporter here throughout the Troubles.
He gives us his personal reflections from the very unique perspective
of both a chronicler of the era and a 20th-century art lover.
What we see here is a combination
at the hands of FE McWilliam, the Banbridge sculptor,
is a marrying together of the beauty of the female form
and the ugliness of war.
This piece of work is more emblematic, I think,
of our Troubles than anything else
we have in this exhibition here in the Ulster Museum.
This is the equivalent of Pablo Picasso's painting of Guernica,
bombed, in northern Spain.
McWilliam captured the end product, the horror, the ugliness,
the grotesqueness of violence arising from the Abercorn bombing
in this particular piece of work.
Some of the artists who are hanging on the walls,
they're not art as we would readily identify with the Troubles.
For example, Terry Flanagan.
Terry Flanagan was a beautifully lyrical landscape painter,
and here he is portraying a dead figure.
This was a response, we're advised, to the death of Mr Flanagan's friend.
CROWD CHEERING, DRUMS AND FLUTES PLAYING
The artist Joe McWilliams is a very political painter.
He's done Gerry Adams, he's done Padraig Pearse,
he's done a lot of the Irish figures of history.
In painting Sammy Wilson, Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson, the artist
is focusing very specifically on his take at a particular
moment in time on the Democratic Unionist Party
and, clearly, it is not a very edifying take.
Clearly, he has very considerable - from what I see here -
contempt for these individuals.
Sammy Wilson, the Lord Mayor of Belfast -
he's like the court jester.
There is something menacing about this mirror image, almost,
sitting on Ian Paisley's shoulder.
And yet you get that in contrast to the guffawing, avuncular,
the television image which people would know of Ian Paisley.
I can only conclude that the artist is conveying another message.
If you notice, there's a yellow streak
down the middle of Mr Robinson's face.
But who knows? Not a very flattering triptych, I have to say.
This painting by Conrad Atkinson
is living proof of how times have changed.
For the better, I should say.
In 1978, there was uproar
when Atkinson wanted it hung on a wall here in the museum.
There was an objection by the trustees, there was
an objection by staff, I'm told, et cetera, et cetera.
It's hanging here today. Would anyone notice? I doubt it.
The world is changing. What's happening now?
Martin McGuinness dining with the Queen.
CACOPHONOUS METALLIC BANGING
This exhibit piece of art is called An Bhearna Bhaoil.
Now, An Bhearna Bhaoil means "the gap of danger".
This is a tying of history and reality on the ground together.
The banging of the bin lids was the quickest way to get the word out
to people who might have been wanted by the police,
who might have been hiding in a so-called safe house.
So, in a sense, these bin lids were the Facebook
and the Twitter of that era.
It's the genius of the artist, Locky Morris, to see how
this simple bin lid could be seen in a sense of otherness.
That's what distinguishes the ordinary artist
from the extraordinary.
Having come in to see the exhibition for the first time,
my visceral response was one of tension.
Tension in my chest.
Maybe it's because I lived through this period.
Maybe it's because I was there in the aftermath of so many
of the killings portrayed here, of the shootings, of the bombing scenes.
So, hence this sense of tension for me
as a living reporter, as somebody who, thank God,
survived the era, the period.
And the Art Of The Troubles exhibition continues
until 7th September.
Now, when a politician gets their photographic portrait taken,
it's a rare chance for us to look them squarely in the face.
But they may end up revealing
an awful lot more than they'd bargained for.
Noel Thompson went to Downpatrick to meet a man who has had many
of our local politicians staring down his lens over the years -
We live in an age when we're bombarded with moving images
of politicians 24 hours a day.
But a single moment frozen in time can define for ever
the way we think of a person.
If you go somewhere like that, look,
-you can do different things, you know?
'Bobbie Hanvey has used the power of the portrait to explore
'the torturous political landscape of Northern Ireland,
'as I discovered on a shoot in an old hospital ward in his home town.'
What do you think has helped make you a successful portrait photographer?
The way I look.
I'm not threatening to men, I'm not threatening to women.
I don't look great,
I'm not good-looking,
and no matter how unattractive some of the people that I'm taking are,
they always feel better when they look at me!
Isn't that strange?
Are you always trying to get people to reveal something of themselves
that has not been seen before or that has not been seen publicly before?
-I try and get the dark side of people.
You know? I don't know how I do it.
I'm successful a lot of the time. Sometimes, I can't get it.
Yes. Not everyone has a dark side. Or do you think everyone does?
Everybody has a dark side.
But if people knew you wanted to take their dark side,
maybe they wouldn't be so happy about posing for you.
Most hard men and paramilitaries like their dark side to be seen,
because that's how they're known.
And I say to some of the paramilitaries
when I'm taking them, "Look at me as if you were going to kill me."
Close your eyes a wee second, there's dust in your eyes. Duck.
Got him! An old trick I learned in Belfast!
Over five decades, Bobbie has worked in many different genres,
from daily news to longer-term projects,
like the last days of the RUC.
Where do you rate your portraits in that body of work?
I'd rate them at the top.
Because that's what I really wanted to do, photograph people close up,
getting into their eyes, even getting into their soul.
Sometimes I managed it, and sometimes I didn't,
-but that's it.
-Let's go and look.
So, there you have Ian Paisley up at the level of Carson at Stormont.
Tell us about the background to this picture!
It was September 1985.
Got his number and phoned him up and I said,
"Dr Paisley, Bobbie Hanvey here.
"Yes, my friend, what can I do for you?"
I said, "I want to put you up in the air, 40 or 50 foot,
"in a cherry picker, beside Lord Carson's statue,
"and I want to go up in a cherry picker, as well,
"and take you like that."
He says, "When are we going up?"
Bobbie has shot portraits of paramilitary leaders on all sides.
This one of Buck Alec Robinson
and Gusty Spence reveals something unexpected.
So, this is a photograph of two generations of loyalist gunmen.
What message did you want the picture to get across?
They just look like ordinary people.
You know, they look like us.
-Alex looks like an old man, which he is.
And Gusty's just happy and pleased to be there
and there's no dark side to Gusty in that shot, you know what I mean?
-They do what they have to do.
-They've convinced themselves
that there's a just cause for what they're doing.
'Other portraits reveal something very different.'
Cathal Goulding, chief of staff for the Official IRA.
How about that? When he looked at me, it was like me looking at death.
And the eyes are the things
in that Cathal Goulding shot that stand out.
You say they're dead eyes?
It's like looking at death.
Very nice man.
I liked him.
Do you feel that they liked the thought of being recorded
for posterity, that a good photograph of them is something
that will always be a record of them and their ego?
It's not them and their ego, it's them and their tradition.
A lot of people mightn't like them, but they had the support and,
whether we like it or not, they ran Northern Ireland for 30 years.
Nobody could stop it.
I don't want to photograph politicians any more.
Because I don't believe them any more.
I think people were more honest during the Troubles.
And is that what you think or what you try to capture with your lens,
that honesty, that rawness?
There's an awful honesty about brutality.
OK. Let's have a look at me here.
I look like bloody Keith Richards in that one!
Originally commissioned by BBC Two Northern Ireland,
it's a film with no story
and very little dialogue is spoken for most of its 40 minutes.
But it was produced by a future Oscar winner, Danny Boyle,
and directed by revered film maverick Alan Clarke.
25 years on, Elephant is now at cult status,
considered to be one of the most striking and dramatic portrayals
of the Troubles.
In 1987, Danny Boyle, then head of the drama department
at BBC Northern Ireland, invited director Alan Clarke to Belfast
to discuss a new screenplay for a BBC Two drama about the RUC.
One of the writers, Chris Ryder, took him on a tour of the city.
Here you were, driving along a suburban street.
Then all of a sudden there would be a house and I would have told them,
"Well, at three o'clock one morning, somebody hammered the door
"and as soon as the front door was opened
"the person in it was gunned down."
What struck him was the calm brutality of it all.
Clarke went back to Danny Boyle with an idea for a very different film,
showing a series of sectarian murders
with no explanations and no real beginning or end.
It would mirror the deadly stalemate here,
the unmentionable elephant in the room.
Elephant was the first time I'd ever stood in front of a camera,
the first part I'd never got in any kind of a film.
So, it made it all the more exciting for me on the day.
I had to walk along here, nice and gently,
without drawing any attention to myself particularly.
I had to ring on that doorbell and then I had to wait
for what felt at the time like an eternity
before somebody actually came to the door and answered it.
But Alan Clarke was fastidious in exactly
how he wanted you to do what he wanted you to do.
I can remember talking at one point, saying to him,
"Do I know this guy? Do I hate this character?
"Is there venom behind what I'm doing here?"
He said, "Absolutely not."
He wanted nothing. he said, "No expression at all."
A documentary is people,
is one in which people portray themselves.
A drama is one in which actors are paid to portray other people.
And the poor guy died about there.
It's kind of a shock to see it.
It is a shock to see it.
And to see how simple the whole thing was.
You really did feel like you were...
It felt like you were looking at something very real.
But when you saw it in the end, it was quite stripped bare.
You felt kind of naked about it, I think.
Elephant was largely improvised on location,
a product of the director's imagination.
It was an unusual film, because, A, there was no script,
so we didn't really know what was happening.
Most of the crew didn't know from day-to-day
exactly what we were going to shoot.
The content was very unsettling for the crew
and I know a lot of crew didn't really want to work on it.
He spent a lot of time on his own, walking up and down
with a big coat on.
I don't think he was very well at the time, either.
Elephant was broadcast in January, 1989.
The following day, there were outraged accusations
that it sensationalised sectarian killing.
We wanted to try and bring to the attention of everybody, really,
who should be concerned about Northern Ireland
that the situation is continuing.
Some days you would have had tit for tats,
two in the morning, two in the afternoon..
By stripping away all the propaganda, all the explanations,
the justifications, the "what about-tery"
that you had in Belfast, this was just a way to show that,
underneath it all, the core of it all was this regular, relentless,
coruscating sheer violence
with no rhyme nor reason in most cases.
It was becoming normal, and he was trying to show
that it wasn't normal, and I think that got a reaction
cos I think it made people think,
"Gosh, really, this isn't normal. This isn't a normal way to live.
"This isn't a normal society we're living in."
Clarke had been suffering from cancer throughout the shoot
and died the following year.
But for a film that was only shown once on television,
Elephant has been incredibly influential.
You talk to any director and they hear that you've worked on Elephant,
they're quite... They ask you questions.
I think a lot of film-makers took to heart
a lot of what Alan did in that movie.
In 2003, director Gus Van Sant
won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival
for a film which borrowed heavily from Alan Clarke.
Depicting shootings at a US high school, his Elephant uses
the same unflinching tracking shots of victims and killers.
The camera just sits there.
It looks and it looks and it looks
and it won't let you tear your eyes away.
He was a very political film-maker.
In this case, he had a very, very precise point that he wanted to make
and I don't think you could have made it any better.
Well, that's almost it from The Arts Show for this month.
You can join me live on Twitter now and you can keep up-to-date
with all arts and culture on BBC Radio Ulster's Arts Extra
weeknights at 6:30pm.
I'm back in May, but we leave you with another moment
from the BBC Two Northern Ireland archive.
In 1993, a fresh-faced up-and-coming comedian
who knew how to spin the comic art of politics made his appearance
on the arts show The Hungry Eye. Good night.
Thanks very much. At the minute, we've got
a new battalion of the Army over here on our streets
and because they've taken their helmets off and put their berets on,
they're now called the Frank Spencer Regiment.
What's actually happening is, instead, at the checkpoints,
of them asking you for ID, they just stand at the window and go...
And all the boys are having great fun with it in Belfast.
The lads are at the checkpoint, they go, "Excuse me.
"You got any means of identification on you?" "No, I haven't, mucker,
"but I'm Betty and she's Jessica. Know what I mean?
"Ah, go on, give us Phantom of the Opera."
"Tell you what, you stick the roller-skates on,
"I'll tow you down the road."
It's true. It's true. And also, I've noticed, culturally,
it's really, really good. Thomas the Tank Engine is actually now
in Irish over here, and I was thinking for Northern Ireland
they shouldn't have it in Irish, they should just abbreviate it.
For Northern Ireland, it should be Thomas the Tank.
Or maybe just Thomas the Saracen.
I think Ringo Starr could have a lot of fun with that.
It was a boring day for Thomas the Saracen
as he escorted the Republic of Ireland team to the ground.
Oh, there's a police checkpoint with the two Land Rovers,
Annie and Clarabell.
"Hello, Annie." "Hello, Thomas. Any means of identification?"
"Didn't you know, Annie? I'm in the Masons?"
"Oh, sorry, Thomas. On you go."
Featuring the Art of the Troubles exhibition at the Ulster Museum, political cartoonist Ian Knox and photographer Bobbie Hanvey. Plus, a look back at Alan Clarke and Danny Boyle's seminal Troubles era drama Elephant.