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Portrait Illustration Project


The Naughton Gallery and the Queen’s Gender Initiative are delighted to announce a new collaborative project to celebrate and promote the impactful contributions of women at Queen’s. This project will highlight the critical and varied roles that a diverse range of women play across the University through the commissioning of a range of watercolour portraits by internationally renowned Irish artist Laura Callaghan. The portraits will become part of the University Art Collection and will be unveiled in a special exhibition at the Naughton Gallery in November 2024.

The project’s Open Call invites staff and students to nominate women working across the University, including both academic and professional services staff, to have their portrait created by Callaghan. Whilst various significant women from throughout the history of Queen’s are highlighted through the Visionary Women portrait collection in the Great Hall, this project is focusing on the present, recognising essential support staff, inspirational leaders, and boundary-pushing academics who make a significant contribution to the fabric of Queen’s today.

Upon its foundation in 2000, QGI commissioned Out of the Shadows, a large-scale oil painting by Michelle Rogers which currently hangs in the University’s Council Chambers. In the painting we see various women emerging from the shadows, surrounded by text which points to the various roles which women play at Queen’s, including administrators, technicians, cleaners, lecturers, secretaries, professors, and directors. The women themselves remain somewhat anonymous, enabling viewers to imagine themselves in these roles or to see themselves reflected in some way.

This new project is inspired by the messaging of Out of the Shadows, but will instead celebrate and promote the essential roles that specific women play at Queen’s, showing their faces, telling their stories, and reflecting the breadth of women who contribute so significantly to the success of the University.


Irish illustrator Laura Callaghan’s work is largely hand-painted using watercolour, gouache, and isograph pen, depicting women in colourful, maximalist environments. Part fashion illustration, part satire, Callaghan’s images are ostensibly bright and beautiful, but simultaneously cultivate a sense of unease and humour. Clients include The New Yorker, Nike, Samsung, and The Body Shop. She has previously shown at the Naughton Gallery in her solo exhibition, Natura Naturans (2019-20), in addition to other group exhibitions.

Judging Panel

Cathy Carey

QGI Coordinator

Laura Callaghan


Ben Crothers

Curator and Collections Manager

Lauren Gallagher

REC Project Manager

Joan Parsons 

Interim Head of Culture and Arts

Denise Price

Polymers Business Manager, Advanced manufacturing Innovation Centre and QGI Executive Champion for Portraits and Visual Culture

How to Enter

Thank you to all who submitted nominations. Nominations for the project are now closed. We appreciate your participation and will be reviewing submissions shortly.

Enquiries about the project can be emailed to:


Terms and Conditions
  • Any Queen's University staff or student can nominate a staff member.
  • Self-nominations will not be accepted.
  • Nominees must be employed at the University at the time of their nomination.
  • Nominations submitted after the deadline will not be considered.
  • Members of the Judging Panel cannot be nominated nor can they make nominations. If a nomination is received for a member of the Judging Panel, it will not be considered.
  • In the judging process, the panel will be considering the final exhibition as a whole, ensuring that the overall project reflects a diverse and inclusive range of women working in various roles across the University.

Once submissions have been reviewed and the winning nominations are determined, QGI will contact the award recipients and their nominators to notify them of the outcome and invite the nominee to participate in the project. At this stage, a photography session will be arranged in order for the artist to create the portrait, and additional information or a short meeting may be required. The winning staff members will also be required to work with the Naughton Gallery and QGI to finalise the wall text that will accompany their portrait.

All nominees, with their permission, will have their names listed as part of the final exhibition, and all nominees and nominators will be invited to the launch of the exhibition in November 2024.