I spotted this rather cutting comment on our new devolved government the other day, hanging on the wall of Clements’ coffee shop on Royal Avenue in Belfast. It’s unusual in that most public political art in Northern Ireland is partisan, whereas this takes a dig at the cynics on both sides of the divide. Entitled ‘Chalk & Cheese’, Harry Pettis’ triptych features ‘advertisements’ for the aforementioned products, as branded by Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, with satirical blurbs (which can be read more fully below the fold, alongside close-ups). Across the top and bottom of the canvas are the words ‘The war is over/ The good guys lost’, while in the centre panel, sandwiched between an orange/green handshake and Parliament Buildings, it reads: “Good: But why did you not do this 35 years ago?” This is the ‘chalk’, as sponsored by Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness (larger copy here). The text reads: Finest Irish white chalk/ Department of Ed approved/ Pure white and clean/ Thagadh ár lá/ Errors easily erased I think (but correct me if I’m wrong) the Irish means something like ‘Our day has gone’.
And the second photo is of the ‘cheese’, brought to you by DUP First Minister Ian Paisley (larger pic here). The text reads: Special vintage/ ‘Blue skies’ Ulster cheese/ Extra strong & mature/ Handmade North Antrim Cheese, 80 years old and specially selected for substance and flavour/ Guaranteed never, never, never to turn/ Best served at high temperature
And finally, the centrepiece of the three parts, the agreement bringing the previously incompatible chalk and cheese together, albeit far too late for the artist’s liking.