Sat, Apr

Person of Year, Colin Davidson; Visual Artist & Chancellor of Ulster Univ.

Colin Davidson is a contemporary artist, living and working near Belfast, Northern Ireland. Since graduating in 1991 from the University of Ulster with a first-class honours degree, he has structured his practice in themes, and his focus is on painting grand scale portraits, which have won widespread recognition and many international awards. 

As well as numerous commissions, Davidson’s portrait sitters have included Brad Pitt, Ed Sheeran, Liam Neeson, Brian Friel, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Christy Moore, Dame Mary Peters, Gary Lightbody, Marketa Irglova, Glen Hansard, Mark Knopfler and Seamus Heaney.

His work is held in many public and corporate collections worldwide, including Queen’s University Belfast, the Ulster Museum (Belfast), Standard Life (London), the National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin), the Standard Chartered Bank of Asia, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (Washington DC) and the National Portrait Gallery, (London).

Davidson’s recent exhibition of portrait paintings, entitled ‘Silent Testimony’, reveals the stories of eighteen people who are connected by their individual experiences of loss through the Troubles - a turbulent 30-year period in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s onwards.

This critically acclaimed work was shown at the Ulster Museum Belfast 2015, before embarking on a tour which included the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, Dublin Castle and the United Nations NYC. In December 2015 he was commissioned by Time to paint German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, for its ‘Person of the Year’ issue.

In 2016 Colin Davidson was invited to paint an official portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II, which was unveiled later that year by The Queen in London. In 2019 his official portrait of President Bill Clinton was unveiled by the Past President in New York and in 2020 his portrait of Irish President Michael D Higgins was unveiled in Dublin.
Colin Davidson was appointed as the new chancellor of Ulster University in June, 2021

He succeeds the actor James Nesbitt, who has served as the university's chancellor for more than a decade.

Mr Davidson said he was "delighted and honored" with the appointment.

The role of chancellor is mostly ceremonial, though they often preside at graduation ceremonies and also act as an ambassador for the university.

Mr Davidson has also painted people bereaved or injured in the Troubles.
An exhibition of his work called Silent Testimony, has been seen in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, France and the USA.

The chairman of the Ulster University Council, Jenny Pyper, said Colin embodies "the creative and contemporary spirit of Ulster University". "We are incredibly fortunate to have someone of such character and commitment to help us to guide and inspire the next generation," she said.

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