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Travel the world in new exhibition at Victoria Gallery & Museum

Travel, memory and belonging are at the heart of the latest exhibition at the Victoria Gallery and Museum.

Cork-born Fion Gunn’s Arrival/Departures, running until December 23, is part of a year-long artistic residency within the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies.

Gunn, who works in a range of media from painting, decoupage and collage to sculpture, installation and virtual reality, has drawn together a collection of work – some newly created – which explores the movement of people across borders and boundaries, focusing of travel and belonging and displacement and connection.

Pieces on show include series of paintings inspired by the Age of Exploration and immigration, and a new work A Tale of Two Cities which explores the mirrored history of Liverpool and Dublin.

Gunn, whose great-grandfather migrated annually from Cork, where he was a boat builder, to New York where he used his skills to build sets for Broadway theatres, has a particular interest in port cities – reflected in works like her seven-canvas To Reach a Port We Must Sail which encompasses her vision of Cork, Alexandria, Venice, Dubai and Shanghai through history, literature, architecture, the natural world and the stories of people.

Above: Lifeboat (2022). Top: artist Fion Gunn.

She also uses found objects to create sculptures and 3D installations including an oud – discovered on the side of the road – which she has transformed into a new piece, Lifeboat, complete with a child’s globe turned into a library filled with books, and a damaged wooden case turned into an infinity box inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Gunn, who will be artist in residence at the Institute of Irish Studies until March 2023, has also worked with sound artist Barney Kass to create a seven-and-a-half minute immersive installation which includes virtual reality images of clouds, birds, fish, jellyfish, and 3D scans of sculptures from the main exhibition and from the Garstang Museum collection.

The work’s ambient soundtrack is carefully designed to accommodate audiences who may have heightened sensitivity to sound.

Gunn says: “I grew up in a port city, 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.”

Professor Peter Shirlow, director of the Institute of Irish Studies, adds: “I’d 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.

Arrival/Departures is supported by Arts Council England and is on show at the Victoria Gallery and Museum until December 23.


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