University of Liverpool: Institute of Irish Studies’ first Artist in Residence, Fion Gunn brings exhibition to VG&M

Fion Gunn, the Institute of Irish Studies’ first ever Artist in Residence, brings a major exhibition exploring the movement of people across borders and boundaries, to the Victoria Gallery & Museum (VG&M) from July 30.

Gunn is an Irish diaspora artist who has focused on travel and belonging throughout her career. Displacement and connection are key themes in her work.

Arrivals/Departures forms part of Gunn’s year long residency with the Institute.

Fion Gunn said: “I grew up in a port city – Cork – and when I came to Liverpool it felt like a surreal homecoming – here is a truly diaspora city with the friendliness I associated with Ireland. It was the first time I ever had that experience in the UK.

“When I painted my vision of Liverpool, I was thinking about its complex history which resonates through every street and quayside, and how speaking truth to power is so much part of the conversation.

“Port cities share the stories of peoples in the way other cities do not – they are the interface between land and sea, between cultures and ideas.

“Liverpool with its porous diaspora history is a city that deserves greater recognition and greater opportunities as a city that embraces others.”

Ports acting as literal and metaphorical entrances and exits make appearances throughout Gunn’s portfolio. From Cork to Shanghai, Dubai to Alexandria, Gunn explores what it means to travel, its impact on memory, its historical weight, and its power to heal or corrupt us. Globalism in terms of commercial trade but also human experiential exchange, is at the core of these works.

With a portfolio spanning painting, collage, sculpture, installation, performance and VR, Gunn’s practice is constantly evolving to match the ebbs and flows of her subject matter. Encompassing panel discussions, public workshops, an immersive digital installation, an AR pop-up trail, and guided tours, Gunn’s vision is to bring her art and its satellite discussions to as many people – and in as meaningful a way – as possible.

Professor Peter Shirlow is the Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, he said: “I would urge people to come and see this important inaugural exhibition presented with our partners at the VG&M, which is a significant and historic first for the Institute of Irish Studies.

“Our very first Artist in Residence, Fion Gunn has produced an impressive range of work across a number of different visual media. These explore the movements of people around the globe and the resultant impacts, culturally, socially, and economically.

“In terms of social justice – and as a port city with a lengthy and complex history – Liverpool is a particularly apposite venue, given its role as the site of diasporic arrivals, settlements, and departures.

“We are grateful to our funders Arts Council England and to our colleagues at the VG&M for all their hard work in hosting the exhibition.”

Fion Gunn was born and raised in the city centre of Cork, graduated from Crawford College of Art & Design, and spent a post-graduate year at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts Supérieure de Nancy. She has exhibited across Europe and China, and won multiple awards for her work from Arts Council England, Arts Council Ireland, and Culture Ireland.

University of Liverpool