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Thin Places 
The Folklore of Peatlands

06.10.23 - 15.10.23


An exhibition of paintings by Bob Speers.

Launching at The Naughton Gallery on Friday 06 October, 4pm - 5pm, followed by a celebration of peatlands with song, stories, and poetry in the Canada Room and Council Chamber, 5pm - 6pm. 

Naughton Gallery at Queen's

Queen’s University Belfast,

University Road, Belfast,


Free admission. Refreshments provided. All welcome.



Peatlands exist in over 180 countries. They represent stores of carbon, and we often underestimate and underappreciate their crucial role in the fight against climate change. In Irish mythology, they also played an important role. The term 'thin place' referred to a location where the veil between the physical world and the mystical otherworld appeared permeable or 'thin', a mystical space where the boundaries between our tangible world and the unseen world could touch. Thin places were revered and afforded respect, but also feared because they were the places of the unknown. A thin place was, by its very nature, a place where there was no barrier between heaven and earth, and where an intersection between the earthly and spiritual realms existed. Today, peatlands are still considered to have this special significance and to offer an enigmatic connection between the worldly and the hallowed.


Bob Speers is an artist whose practice encompasses two disciplines: song writing/performing and fine art. He first exhibited in the Royal Ulster Academy Annual Exhibition in the 1970s and his figurative work evolved from then into a land-based genre. By the 1980s, his paintings were challenging the idea of ‘progress’, drawing attention to the many forms of erosion which were increasingly affecting nature, landscape, and climate.


In the artist’s own words, “My art is currently informed by habitual wanderings through different levels of moor and bog. Interest lies in the human and weathering imprint, the subtle colours, lines and incisions on its skin. The paintings are usually on canvas, with my palette ranging from the use of regular oils and acrylics to household and commercial matte paint. In these particular paintings, I use a piece or sample of each individual bog. In essence, the bog named is to be found in the painting”.


The exhibition has been organised by the Gibson Institute for Land, Food and Environment in the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s, with the valued assistance of Belfast City Council. 


Thin Places continues until Sunday 15 October, Tuesday-Sunday 11am-4pm.

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