Monday, 24 March 2014

Black Sheep Gallery

As you head out of Broughshane along the Knockan Road, in the direction of Clough, you’ll soon realise you’ve passed through the Gateway to the Glens. The scene is picturesque, rolling rural with extensive views to the hills of Antrim.  Idyllic landscape indeed: providing abundance of inspirational sight, sound and silence for the artist.  It’s no surprise then that professional artists would take advantage of this environment to make this home and work base.
In 2009 Hernan Farias developed a reputation in his native Santiago as a master photographer. Growing up in a working-class Chilean household, Hernan had a notion of photography but couldn’t afford a camera.
One day he found a camera lying beside his car in a shopping mall car park.  It looked like an expensive piece of equipment, so honest Hernan handed it over to the mall security.  No one claimed ownership of the camera so the honest mall security people passed the camera back to Hernan and told him to keep it.  So he had a camera but didn’t know how to use it.  Not to worry, he sought out Polish photographer Wieslaw Olejinczak, recognised as one of the top fashion photographers in Chile.  Hernan took lessons once a week for a year and then Olejinczak took him on as one of his assistants: for one year, before employing Hernan as his number one assistant in 2008.
Hernan started to make a name for himself as a skilled artisan which resulted in him doing a major photo shoot for the international fashion magazine, Vogue.  He had arrived; attaining a level of recognition in Chile, that when he had acquired his first camera, he could only have dreamt of aspiring to.  He then set off to move to the far side of Broughshane.
Judith explained that this was partially to do with a bad case of ‘home is where the heart is’ and also the fact that the education system in Chile was considerably inferior to that of her homeland. They have three children.
They moved here in 2009.  Judith had spent a year teaching English in Spain before moving to Chile, where she met Hernan and lived there for nine years.  To the rear of their beautiful home they have converted a farm outbuilding into a shared studio and a gallery. 
Judith’s art is captivating as you walk through the door.  It is folk art and has been described as naïve figurative with influence from the Renaissance period.  Much of it is rural, in sync with nature, in sync with the Maker’s art beyond the gallery windows.  It is feminine dominated: it is the end result of an artist who has found a oneness with her art form, expressing her inner character with confidence.
The ground floor is a gallery filled with the captivating imagery of Judith’s paintings with Hernan’s photo studio adjoining.  Upstairs is the art studio.  The building itself has been converted with art-felt tastefulness.  The old is retained with the brightness of modern: the wood burning stove securing the ambience of warmth.
For Judith she is fulfilling her dream life, re-bonding with her family circle in the land where she grew up.  For Hernan of course it is not quite as simple.  His story is typical of the challenge that faces any new immigrant to this country.  Ulster folk are renowned for being a warm friendly bunch but generally we’re not that great at understanding and fully accepting people from foreign lands.  This stems from the fact that we have lived among our ain folk for generations and have developed unique subtle forms of communication through distinct local forms of speech and body language. Much often gets lost in translation and we don’t easily comprehend the challenges that face those from beyond the hills, never mind beyond the sea.
Having said that, Hernan is gradually getting the message across that he is a master of his trade.  He did get off to a fortunate start.  Just after he had moved to his somewhat secluded rural home he started to promote his work on Facebook and was noticed by international fashion model, and former Miss Northern Ireland, Lucy Evangelista.  Lucy was impressed by his work and was discussing, on Facebook, the possibility of engaging the Chilean photographer for a photo shoot.
Lucy enquired whereabouts he had moved to in Northern Ireland, Hernan told her he lived near Broughshane.   Lucy replied, “I live near Broughshane as well, where are you exactly?”  “On the Knockan Road” he replied.  When Hernan gave Lucy more details of the exact location and description of his house she was silent for a moment before informing him that she was looking out her window across the road at his house.
Social media was designed to be global and not meant to facilitate business meetings with your closest neighbours.  In this case the rules were broken.  The now London-based, globetrotting former Miss Northern Ireland was his first professional photo-shoot outside of Santiago: he has been much sought after since.
You too can communicate with Hernan on Facebook or through
Judith’s paintings, prints and cards are also on display in Belfast at Charles Gilmore Gallery, in Holywood at The Yard Gallery and in Bushmills at the new Gallery 1608.

The Black Sheep Gallery is at 125 Knockan Road, Broughshane. Tel: 028 2586 2889

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