When the Northern Irish artist Colin Davidson embarked on his project Silent Testimony he could not have anticipated the remarkable response to this work.

He knows now.

On show in 2015, it became the most-visited exhibition in the history of the Ulster Museum with more than 80,000 people viewing it.

Davidson’s 18 portraits are of people touched by the horror of the conflict period; most who lost loved ones, others who were injured.

He paints back into the stories of the disappeared, and reminds us of bombs in Belfast, Dublin, Monaghan and in England.

In the eyes of the portraits, we see the hurts of today.

“It’s about right now,” the County Down artist explains, not a project about the past, but something that represents today’s loss and pain.

From Belfast, the exhibition travelled to Paris and this weekend it opens in Dublin.

“I was always aware that the Troubles, which I grew up with, impacted worldwide,” Davidson said.

“And for me it is important to acknowledge also the huge loss felt by people south of the border.

“This is why it is poignant and appropriate that this loss is recognised with this exhibition in the Coach House Gallery at Dublin Castle,” he said.

The timing of the Dublin exhibition coincides with yet another long talks process at Stormont with yet another deadline breached on Thursday.

There is not yet agreement to restore the political institutions which collapsed earlier this year with the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister.

Separate from Silent Testimony, Davidson has painted the political giants of the north – McGuinness, Ian Paisley and John Hume.

He has also painted Queen Elizabeth and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, this graced the front cover of Time Magazine.

With each painting, the Davidson brand becomes bigger. Ed Sheeran, Brad Pitt, Liam Neeson, Seamus Heaney, Jamie Dornan and Glen Hansard are among his other works.

For now, the focus is on the Dublin exhibition which will run from today (Saturday July 1st) to September 8th.

Former Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan tweeted: “Wishing Colin Davidson the very best of success with exhibition. A must see.”

Flanagan visited Silent Testimony in Belfast.

His successor Simon Coveney has been at Stormont in recent days trying to encourage a deal to end the political stalemate, but whatever else is achieved, there is no political agreement on the fine-detail of a legacy process.

Instead, there is to be a public consultation. This place is still struggling with its past and present.

For over a decade there have been these consultations and negotiations, but this issue remains mired in political mud.

“The legacy of all conflicts is essentially universal,” Davidson said.

“When the protagonists sit down to talk, which they inevitably always have to do, it is the people who have suffered loss, who end up having to pick up the pieces for themselves.

“These people are in every sense paying the price for our peace.”


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