Derry City & Strabane - "Tribes & Tribulations " A monumental Touring Exhibition by Award winning Artist Helen Merrigan Colf




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"Tribes & Tribulations " A monumental Touring Exhibition by Award winning Artist Helen Merrigan Colf

04 April 2023

A stunning solo exhibition by award winning Wexford based Artist, Helen Merrigan Colfer and curated by Noelle McAlinden is now on display in the Alley Theatre.

Featuring 30 uniquely crafted resin and mixed media sculptures, paintings, poetry, as well as a monumental personal and emotively charged Lockdown Diary, the exhibition is centred around five unique sculptures celebrating the sanctuary in finding compassion, community, and connection. It is inspired by finding our own Tribes and those around us who support us through life’s challenges and tribulations.

The exhibition was officially launched on Saturday 25th March and runs until Friday 21st April.  Opened by Dr Denise Ferran PPRUA , Art Educationalist, Art Historian and Past President of The Royal Ulster Academy, this exhibition is suitable for all ages and stages in life.  An inspirational exhibition that will intrigue, amuse, and mesmerise as well as entertain, challenge us in facing our own vulnerability and celebrate our resilience in times of adversity.  Deemed a must-see exhibition, Tribes and Tribulations has evolved with ongoing conversations and reflections discussed between the artist and curator and features a recorded film between the two.

Speaking ahead of the exhibition, Curator, Noelle McAlinden, said she was very proud to have been collaborating with Helen Merrigan Colfer over the last six years and now culminating in the curation and touring of Tribes & Tribulations.

“These themes have always been very close to my heart – mental health, well-being, creativity and self-expression. We are thrilled to be bringing this exhibition to The Alley Arts Centre in Strabane and we’re grateful to Derry Strabane District Council for their support and for new audiences to enjoy, as part of our ongoing commitment to tour this excellent exhibition across the Island of Ireland. We are indebted to Flowerfield Arts Centre, The Island Arts Centre, Lisburn and Strule Arts Centre Omagh for hosting this exhibition to date during exceptionally challenging times as we emerge from lockdown.”

Artist, Helen Merrigan Colfer, said: “In my art I investigate my personal journey from childhood to adulthood as I attempt to make sense of who I am and my journey to find my Tribe; is that journey complete or still underway?  I attempt to create an emotional memoir of my evolving internal landscape. My strong sense of place has informed sculptures that are influenced by my coastal surroundings. My love of nature has also become organically enmeshed in my work. Tribulations are investigated and given form, sometimes harshly, sometimes more subtly.  I would like to thank Dr Denise Ferran for opening the exhibition, to John Kerr DCSDC & his staff at Alley Theatre Strabane for their support and professionalism, and Noelle Mc Alinden for her ongoing  support Among the many guests who joined us for an exceptional launch included  Brian Ferran HRUA Honary Member Royal Ulster Academy and former CEO Arts Council NI. Mr Paddy Mackey Former CEO WELB and Education Authority Western Region and his wife Pat Mackey Art Educationalist, Susan Thomas Arts Educationalist and her Husband David Thomas , Thomas The Jeweller, and UU student Fashion & Art student Juliette Treacey and Elizabeth Treacey.

As part of the Exhibition there are a series of dedicated Talks & Tours by Noelle Mc Alinden, Creative Adviser, Curator, Educator and Arts & Human Rights Activist. These are free and suitable for all artists, educators, public, writers’ poets, community groups.

The response to the Exhibition to date has been phenomenal with visitors travelling from across the Island of Ireland.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Sandra Duffy, welcomed the announcement of the new exhibition in the Alley and was looking forward to visiting and hearing all about the work of Helen Merrigan Colfer.

“While it was difficult for a lot of us, lockdown gave us the opportunity to sit back and reflect on our own lives and those around us – our tribes. Community and connection are a huge part of us as human beings, it’s what makes us feel whole and that’s why lockdown was so hard for a lot of us, as we lost that connection with our nearest and dearest. This exhibition looks at those people around us and why we need them in our lives. It’s very thought-provoking and will really get you thinking about your own community.

“Since lockdown has lifted it’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced lifestyle again but I would encourage everyone to take an afternoon out of their busy lives and come and spend some time pondering over the amazing work this exhibition has to offer.” 

Critic reviews: 

“One of the more unusual exhibits is Helen Merrigan Colferʼs Tribe, a five-piece sculpture in steel, resin & granite that is a tour de force of craft. Each part of this assemblage of elaborately decorated figures is a stand-alone work of art”

The Sunday Times Critic John P. OʼSullivan Review of 138th  

“Each figure has a uniquely decorated dress, sometimes simply painted & other times adorned with a textured modelling allowing you to speculate, wonder or even consider that they are as Helen says fragments of a much larger mindscape,

giving a visual language allowing people to start conversations or even superimpose their own narrative....

This inventive show is a delight from a sculptor we see too little of. I hope we see Helenʼs work much more often at our northern galleries in the future.”

The Belfast Telegraph’s Art Critic Elizabeth Baird

For more information, please visit

Noelle Mc Alinden 07813958183