Thanks to this week’s ‘Spotlight’ artists!

October 30, 2015

Thanks to glass artist Scott Benefield and Italian photographer Alberto Masserin for their very interesting talks this week as part of our Artist Spotlight sessions. Watch out for Mark Revels and Jennifer Trouton RUA next Wednesday.


Scott Benefield


Alberto Masserin



This Week at the Academy’s Annual Exhibition

October 27, 2015

Artist Spotlight

Exhibiting artists Scott Benefield and Alberto Masserin will speak about their respective work at 1.15pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday 28th October. Talks will take place in the exhibition galleries, in front of the artist’s work.


Artist Spotlight, 28th October

Guided Exhibition Tour

Compliment your visit to Royal Ulster Academy’s Annual Exhibition with an introductory guided tour by Margaret Arthur RUA on Saturday 31st October @ 2.30pm.



Create spooky Halloween decorations with Academy educator, Mary Teresa Gribbin, on Saturday 31st October, 2.30pm–4.30pm.This is a family drop–in event and will take place in Discover Art on the 5th floor of the Ulster Museum.

Participation in all events is free of charge

134th Annual Exhibition featured on the Arts Show

October 23, 2015

Last night on BBC2 NI the Academy’s Annual Exhibition was featured on the Arts Show. Denise Ferran, President of the Academy, talked about the make–up of the organisation, the open–submission exhibition category and highlighted a selection of work including pieces by Brendan Jamison ARUA, Jennifer Trouton RUA, Mary McCaffrey and Stephen Johnston.

The Arts Show also included segments on Paul Seawright RUA and newly elected Associate Academician, Chris Wilson.


The Arts Show

To view this clip click here.



Exhibition Events

October 20, 2015

With over 300 works on show at the Ulster Museum, the Royal Ulster Academy’s 134th Annual Exhibition (16th October 2015 – 3rd January 2016) has something to inspire all ages and interests. This year’s events include panel discussions, artist spotlight sessions, guided exhibition tours and workshops for children.

Participating in our first Artist Spotlight on Wednesday 21st October are Academy members Mavis Thomson and Betty Brown, at 1.15pm and 1.30pm respectively. Talks will take place in front of the artist’s work in the exhibition galleries (5th Floor).

Admission to the exhibition and participation in all events is free of charge.


Mavis Thomson ARUA

Mavis Thomson, Sonatina Centenary Tribute to Joan Trimble (1915–2000)


Betty Brown ARUA

Betty Brown ARUA, Fly me to the Moon


The Academy’s 134th Annual Exhibition is now open!

October 17, 2015

This year’s Annual Exhibition was officially opened on Thursday night (15th October) to a packed audience at the Ulster Museum. Speakers on the night included Miceal McCoy – Chairman of Board of Trustees, National Museums Northern Ireland, Jon D’Arcy – Chairman of KPMG and Denise Ferran PRUA. Prizes were announced by adjudicator of Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal recipients, Stephen Snoddy, Director of The New Art Gallery, Walsall, England.

The Academy’s Annual Exhibition continues until 3rd January 2016 – make sure to visit!


Micael McCoy and Jon D'Arcy

  Crowd 2


Paul Millar and Kirst Kotilainen


Daniel Nelis








Joseph McWilliams (born Belfast 1938 – died Belfast 2015)

October 12, 2015

  Joe McWilliams PPRUA

Joseph McWilliams, as President of the Royal Ulster Academy with Dr. S.B.Kennedy, Keeper of Art, Ulster Museum, showing Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne, around the Academy’s exhibition in the Ulster Museum.

It is with great sadness that we have to record the death of the renowned Belfast artist Joe McWilliams, which occurred on Wednesday the 7th October. Educated at St. Malachy’s College, Joe progressed to the Belfast College of Art to study painting where he met his future wife Catherine May, a fellow art student. Joe continued his studies, taking a degree in Art History and Education in the late 1970s from the Open University while teaching full–time in St. Gabriel’s Secondary School and then at the Schools for the Deaf and Blind. His accumulated knowledge and skill reached prominence when he was appointed Lecturer in Art Education at the Ulster Polytechnic, inspiring his student art teachers with a love of their subject and enabling them to build a foundation towards a successful art career.

On his retirement from lecturing in 1986, he and his wife Catherine, they opened the Cavehill Gallery in their large, stylish Victorian home, encouraging local artists whilst building up a clientele of art lovers. Simultaneously continuing their own painting careers, their gallery was a lighthouse amidst ‘The Troubles” with so many of us enjoying their hospitality, their conversations and their humour in the company of their two children, Jane, a television Producer and Simon, a celebrated artist in his own right.

Joe McWilliams was awarded the Silver Medal at the Royal Ulster Academy in 1988, the Belfast News Letter Prize for Painting in 1994 in the same year he was elected an Academician. He exhibited annually with the Royal Ulster Academy and served as its distinguished President from 2000 until 2004. He elevated the Academy’s exhibitions by engaging notable adjudicators such as the painter Dr. Ian McKenzie Smith, former Director of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums and the painter Anthony Green, RA who was also an invited artist in 2004. He has written many scripts for BBC radio and has presented, his own script “The Way that I Went” which was seen on BBC world services as well as locally and in Britain. His own work has been exhibited at a variety of venues in Ireland, Britain, Europe and the USA. He is perhaps best known for his paintings of ‘The Troubles’ evidenced in exhibitions such as ‘Art for Society’ 1978 Whitechapel Gallery, London; ‘Documenta 6’ Kassel 1977, W.Germany; ‘A Troubled Journey 1966–1989’ and ‘Colour on the March’ both at the Cavehill Gallery, Belfast.

Joe was a bon viveur, raconteur, educator, an informed and eloquent speaker and above all a great painter of the political scene. He wrote knowledgeably on the visual arts for art journals and the Irish News. He will be sadly missed by all, in particular by the artistic community of his native Belfast and we in the Royal Ulster Academy owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for the effort he expended in developing the Academy, culminating in the vibrant exhibition which opens in the Ulster Museum on 16th October. Joe’s work “Christian Flautists outside St. Patrick’s” will be silent testimony to the man and his craft.


Joe McWilliams 2015

Denise Ferran

President, Royal Ulster Academy


Dr Denise Ferran RUA takes over as President of the Royal Ulster Academy

October 05, 2015

2015 President

Meet our new President Dr Denise Ferran who’s taken over from Colin Davidson after an epic 3 years driving the Academy forward!

Born in 1942, Denise Ferran grew up in Enniskillen and trained as an art teacher before becoming Head of Art at St. Dominic’s High School, Belfast and then Head of Education at the Ulster Museum.

She has a BA (Hons) in the History of European Art, a Diploma in Advanced Studies in Education from Queen’s University, Belfast, a PhD in Art History from Trinity College, Dublin and an Hon. MFA from the University of Ulster.

Ferran contributes essays to various journals, including Irish Arts Review, Atlas Donegal and to catalogues on Irish art. Her publications include; William John Leech: An Irish Painter Abroad, National Gallery of Ireland and Merrill Holberton, London, 1996, “W.J.Leech” National Gallery of Ireland and Country House Press, Dublin, 1992; “Hone to Nano Reid” the collection of Drogheda Borough Council, Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda, 2006; “FEMcWilliam at Banbridge” 2008 and “F.E.McWilliam” published by the Henry Moore Foundation and Lund Humphries, 2012.

Awards include the RUA Silver medal, RUA Watercolour Prize, Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust Travel Award, a Fulbright research fellow at Boston College in 2002 and a Fulbright Scholar at University of Minnesota in 2006. Artist Residencies include Cill Rialaig, Co. Kerry and Lucca, Italy.

Ferran exhibits regularly at galleries in Ireland and in the USA and her paintings are included in many public collections including the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, National Self Portrait Collection, Limerick, Haverty Trust, Fermanagh County Museum, UTV, Department of the Environment (NI), Ulster Bank, First Trust Bank, Bank of Ireland, Northern Bank and the US Embassy, Dublin. Her paintings explore seascape and landscape which she paints under the ever–changing skies from her studio window overlooking Trawbreaga Bay on the Inishowen Peninsula. A stream running through the garden creates a pond filled with water–lilies and an never ending display of reflections of light and colour. Her canvases embrace the dramatic Donegal skies reflected on wet sands, on deserted beaches and ebbing tides in estuaries and in hidden bays, evoking memories yet respecting the topography of familiar places.



Mark Francis showing at the Academy’s 134th Annual Exhibition

October 05, 2015

We are delighted to announce that world renowned abstract painter Mark Francis is an invited artist at this year’s Royal Ulster Academy Annual Exhibition. Opens on Friday 16th October at 10am, Ulster Museum, Belfast.


Mark Francis

Born in Newtownards in 1962, Mark Francis studied at St. Martin’s School of Art (1980–85) and Chelsea School of Art (1985–6). The Tate outlines how in 1989 “his early energetic, abstract landscape style became more overtly abstract. He adopted a dry–brushing technique, comparable to that developed by Gerhard Richter, to produce soft, smooth, ‘photographic’ and seductive surfaces, featuring microscopic imagery. He developed this approach throughout the 1990s, his oil paintings lacking traces of artistic activity, giving a ‘found’, depersonalised quality. Such effects suggest a disturbing, alienating connection between abstraction and technology; many of his paintings are created with a palette reduced to black and white.”

Stephen Snoddy – 2015 Adjudicator

October 05, 2015

The Academy is delighted to have Stephen Snoddy fly in from England as the guest adjudicator for this year’s exhibition. An acclaimed gallery director throughout the UK, he has been at the forefront of curating international exhibitions by leading artists from across the globe. Stephen will award the Gold, Silver and Bronze prizes at a special ceremony on Thursday 15th October before the show opens to the public at 10am on the Friday morning.


Stephen Snoddy


Born in Belfast in 1959, Stephen Snoddy trained as an artist at Belfast College of Art where he graduated in 1983 with a Master of Fine Art (MFA). His first job was to work at Harmony Hill Arts Centre, Lisburn. In 1987, he graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Art Gallery & Museum Studies from Manchester University and then moved to Bristol to become Exhibitions Organiser at Arnolfini Gallery. He worked from 1987–91 on an exhibitions programme that included Richard Long, Giuseppe Penone, Gillian Ayres, Rachel Whiteread, Jack B. Yeats and Juan Munoz.

In 1991, Snoddy became Exhibitions Director of Cornerhouse, Manchester, where he was responsible for bringing The British Art Show 4 to Manchester, as well as such shows as the John Baldessari Retrospective, a Bruce McLean film commission, Edward Allington, Rose Garrard, and Jochen Gerz exhibitions. In 1996 he moved to become Director of Southampton City Art Gallery, where he organised the 1998 Chris Ofili solo exhibition which won Chris Ofili the 1998 Turner Prize, and an exchange of collections with the Museum of Fine Art, Bilbao, to coincide with the opening of the new Bilbao Guggenheim.

In the spring of 1998 he moved to Milton Keynes to direct the construction of a brand new gallery as part of the £30 million Theatre and Gallery complex. Milton Keynes Gallery opened on 8 October 1999 with ‘The Rudimentary Pictures’, an exhibition of 33 entirely new works by Gilbert & George. In 2003 he was appointed Director, BALTIC Centre of Contemporary Art, Gateshead made organisational and structural changes, refreshed the programme and engaged with artists of the region.

In 2005 Snoddy began to work on freelance projects, acted as consultant to various organisations and lectured at Manchester Metropolitan University. He was also Director of the inaugural Contemporary Art Norwich (CAN05). In May 2005 he was appointed as Director of The New Art Gallery, Walsall where he has reviewed policies, restructured the organisation, enabled an acquisitions budget and increased visitor figures annually since 2007. Previously he has been a Director of the New Contemporaries and was on the Visual Arts Committee of the British Council for 10 years as well numerous other trusteeships and the Director of Look 11, the Liverpool International Festival of Photography.



Colin Davidson

Colin Davidson is a contemporary artist, living and working near Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Since graduating with a first class honours degree from the Art and Design Faculty at the University of Ulster in 1991, Colin Davidson has exhibited extensively in London, New York, Milan and across Ireland. He has been shown regularly at the Royal Hibernian Academy Annual Exhibition, where he has twice won awards, and has been an Academician of the Royal Ulster Academy since 2006, having won the R.U.A. Gold Medal three times and the Silver Medal twice.

Colin Davidson’s work is in public and corporate collections across Ireland, including the Arts Council for Northern Ireland, the BBC, the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland, Limerick, the Office of Public Works Collection, Ireland, the Law Society of Ireland and Queen’s University, Belfast. A selection of portraits of writers and actors from Colin’s latest body of work is presently on display in the newly-reopened Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

Artist Works

Sir Kenneth Branagh

Graphite, crayon and pastel on paper

122 x 112

Sir Kenneth Branagh

Graphite, crayon and pastel on paper

122 x 112