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Impressions Gallery

exhibitions: past

Making Space

Noel Bowler

06th Apr - 16th Jun 2012

In its British premiere, Making Space explores the expansion and development of Islam in contemporary Ireland. Made over the course of three years, the exhibition examines the reuse of spaces for the purpose of prayer by Muslim communities throughout Ireland. This is Noel Bowler’s first major solo show in Britain.

Bowler reveals the quiet transformation of everyday spaces in urban, residential and rural locations. He records how private homes, warehouses, office spaces, and industrial units are being turned into spaces for prayer. Whilst Catholicism is the majority religion in Ireland, Bowler’s images challenge this monocultural view, providing evidence of a strong and proud Muslim community. Making Space provides a unique record of a major, though not widely acknowledged, change in Irish society.

Devoid of people, Bowler’s photographs draw attention to the material details that reveal the connections, overlaps, and divergences between Western and Islamic cultures. In one image, copies of the Quran are stacked on bookshelves, incongruously accompanied by Quality Street and Roses tins; whilst in another image a prayer space is decorated with Christmas garlands.
Some spaces appear ambiguous in their purpose, lacking any religious ornamentation apart from transient prayer rugs or a simple line of tape on the carpet that marks the direction towards Mecca. The photographs reveal a central quality of Islamic faith – that during sallah (prayer) there is nothing between one’s self and the divine.

Bowler’s work is a timely counterpoint to contemporary global culture’s paranoia concerning the spread of Islam. His straightforward yet subtle images testify to the ways in which everyday surroundings can provide the setting for spiritual experience.

A Gallery of Photography Ireland touring exhibition supported by Culture Ireland.abroad.

Noel Bowler (Dublin, 1978) studied photography at Sallynoggin College, Dublin and received a B.A. in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales Newport in 2003. In 2010 he joined the MFA Photography programme at the University of Ulster, Belfast. In 2005 he was the recipient of the Gallery of Photography’s Artist Award for his work ‘The Joy’. In 2008, he received the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Per Cent for Art Award. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and is included in public and private collections in Ireland and abroad.

Exhibition resources

Click here to download an infomation sheet about the exhibition (pdf 132kb)
Click here to download our interview with Noel Bowler (pdf 172kb)

What the papers say

Guardian Guide
Dig Yorkshire

Noel Bowler

Click on thumbnail below to enlarge


Really great exhibition. As a Muslim who works at a gallery I found it really engaging.
Interesting concept and love the image of the mosque with the big circle glass window. P.s my jacket doubles up as a prayer mat.

Exhibition Visitor

Quiet and inspirational, showing the peace and tranquality of Islam.

Shows that for personal worship whatever your religion that you don’t have to build a great edifice to show the "supposed" power of the god.

I think Bradford is becoming brilliant and great. This gallery is fabulous.

A thing of rare beauty. Stillness and prayer are fused perfectly. The photographs capture the ‘ordinariness of spiritual space. Whatever your faith (or none) these are photographs that help us contemplate our use of space. Thank you for helping me ‘stop for a while’

Is this a documentation of space? Or how is it actually showing the development of Islam in Ireland? Does not provide us with evidence of a proud and strong Muslim community. Do agree that God/Allah maybe celebrated in the ordinariness of life. Food for thought if a bit confusing. No room for racist comments lets celebrate our diversity and similarities !

Noel Bowler shows how even a small subtle eniviroment such as a home offiice, can be turned into a spiritual experience with as little as a few books and a pray mat. It shows that attention and focus to the small details add up.

Exhibition Visitor

What a great reflection of Islam in glad to have seen this in the great multi-cultural city of Bradford. Thank you Noel Bowler and Impressions Gallery.

Exhibition Visitor

A really interesting collection a opportunity to see what we normally wouldn’t get a chhance to see. Thank you.

Exhibition Visitor