IT IS EASY to criticise the aggressively sectarian or clumsy imagery of some of the murals of west Belfast. It is equally difficult to miss the way in which they offer an alternative not only to the sounds of guns, but also to that of cash tills.
The statements on the walls may be brasher than most people would make in conversation, but their effect on intervening public space, in a way that is normally only permitted to those with a product to push, feels like a thrilling, retort to the numbing one way traffic of advertising.
The gallery setting for Of the Wall, an exhibition of the work of the West Belfast Mural Group - which includes photographic records of the work on walls around the area, as well as easel paintings, notably by Margaret McCann and Margaret Hamill, prints, drawings, and some cartoon strips by "Cormac" - is hardly playing to the obvious strengths of mural work. Removed from any geographical context, many of the works appear a little confused about their purpose.
At first sight, Andrea Redmond's Riding the Green Dragon, a large acrylic image painted on loosely hanging cotton, in which a Celtic goddess rides the mythical beast through a milky blue galaxy of dazzling stars, falls squarely into this category. In the context of the title, however, the piece seems to strike, an ironic note, its style half Fitzpatrick, half Rossetti, evoking a notion of an identity that is fictitious and hazardous in equal measure.
Rosie McGurran's large drawings, seen high in the roof of the White Rock Shopping Centre earlier this year, show that she has developed a language that could work equally well on terrace ends and on paper. Her figures, chunky women who seem to nod to Picasso and Valsquez, are capable of conveying a sense of the gloomy vitality of contradictory feelings.