© By Dan Shipsides
“The graffiti letters UVF is ubiquitous in parts of Northern Ireland – especially east Belfast where I live. When I moved to Belfast in the mid 90’s I was, like many, intimidated by such graffiti and so I was struck by the playful and brave act when you happened upon the letters UVF altered by someone to spell LOVE. It was fairly infrequent at the time but I was impressed that it could happen and it gave me a glimmer of possibility that there was some chance that you could live in Belfast and playfully interact with and resist such aggressive and dominant markings.
It also has provoked me thinking around the what love might be within violent times or regimes. That it possibly took love to join the UVF in 1912 and might have also taken a form of love to join the UVF in the 1980 might seem a perverted thought but somehow it is a valid suggestion. Against the saccharin and peaceable idea of love framed by popular culture and ‘peacemakers’ this darker notion is difficult to reconcile in terms of what love might be or might lead to.
The bark came from a eucalyptus tree in east Belfast. The bark curls into bonelike shapes – they are quite fragile but formed enough to drill and fit together with machine bolts. It reminds me of shattered bones fixed with screws and bolts.”
UVF stands for Ulster Volunteer Force. Since the late 1960’s the UVF has been a violent Ulster Loyalist paramilitary group committed to Northern Ireland staying as part of the United Kingdom. Its sectarian violence towards the nationalist, catholic community is well documented but less so is its oppressive positioning within the communities it operates within – with a long standing involvement in violent crime, gangsterism and racism. The original UVF was formed in 1912 as a well armed and trained Unionist militia to block home rule for Ireland. They stood ready to fight both the British forces and the Irish Volunteers to prevent this. However at the outbreak of WW1 the UVF enlisted en-mass in the British Army mostly to form the 36th (Ulster) Division and subsequently sadly most were massacred in battles such as the Somme, Ypres and Gallipoli. It is through this history that the claim of British-ness is often visually manifest and reinforced and it is this history that the current terror group attempts to draw its problematic ‘moral’ stance and legitimacy as ‘defenders of the people’.
VIGIL | STAR. Aliceday Gallery Brussels. Solo Show. 2011
BIVACCO | STAR. Dan Shipsides (& SBP). The Third Space Gallery Belfast. Solo show 2011
Art of the Troubles. Group survey show. Ulster Museum, Belfast 2014
Art of the Troubles. Group survey show. Wolverhampton Gallery. 2015
Image courtesy the artist
Wall based sculpture
Eucalyptus bark, bolts, spray paint and fittings
DIMENSIONS40 x 80 x 4cm
The original version of LOVE is held in a French private collection.
This version is an Artist Proof for exhibition.