The Belfast Print Workshop Archive is a vibrant collection of fine art prints which includes artists who were working Belfast in the 1970's right up to the present day - a wide range of techniques and styles are represented in the ricj collection of over 1000 prints. As part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations in 2017 we put out an open call to writers to respond to archive pieces of their own selection, in their own creative style. We’re very pleased to introduce you to the 3 selected writers; Stephanie Conn, Dan Brown and our own BPW member, Marcus Patton.
Stephanie Conn is a former primary school teacher and graduate of the MA programme at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Stephanie won the Yeovil Poetry Prize, Funeral Service NI prize and the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. Her first collection, ‘The Woman on the Other Side’ is published by Doire Press and was shortlisted for the Shine/Strong Award for best first collection. Her next collection is due to be published in May 2018.
For her approach to the project Stephanie said that, ‘While I have been instantly drawn to particular pieces, I am looking forward to spending more time browsing the digital archive before responding in poetry. I have written ekphrastic poems in the past and am fascinated by the dialogue that can open up between art forms. I wrote a short sequence of poems inspired by the stunning exhibition of Jack Doherty's soda-fired porcelain vessels, 'Waypoint'. Although Jack was born in Northern Ireland, he is now based in Cornwall. This will be the first time I have engaged with and responded to the work of an artist based in Northern Ireland, so that is exciting. It is always wonderful to discover what is on your doorstep.’
Dan Brown is a Belfast-based writer and editor inspired by our shared storytelling tradition and punk heritage. As a viewer, he is inspired by colour theorist Paul Klee and the colour symbolism of the Blue Rider movement. Through writing, he aims to explore how the printworks act as a meeting-point for the relationship between the viewer, the artist and their shared history. I found this quote from Karen Collins in 'Providing Subject Access to Images: A Study of User Queries' to be particularly informative: "Given the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of research, it is desirable that a collection of images be searchable by persons from any field and for a great variety of purposes ... Describing images by their primary subject matter preserves information that both specialists and non specialists can use to gain access to the collection."
In terms of intended direction, Dan commented that, ‘I'm particularly struck by the way the BPW functions as an open platform for artists as well as the public - by offering residencies, exhibitions, skills and professional development workshops that make printmaking accessible as a craft and as a heritage. With this in mind, works from Alison Fitzgerald, Colin Davis and Rita Duffy in the archive are particularly striking to me.’
Marcus Patton was born in Enniskillen and studied architecture at Queen’s University. His work ranges from pen-and-ink drawings to watercolours and silkscreen prints. He has drawn buildings in every county of Ireland and many parts of England, Scotland and Wales, and abroad as far as Australia. Much of his other work concerns music and includes some four hundred silk screened posters for concerts and operas. He has illustrated books on topography, music, architecture and fiction, and contributed illustrations to a wide variety of magazines. He was awarded the OBE in 1995.
Marcus has been a BPW member since 1979 and is also a former trustee. He’s interested in taking a historical approach and, ‘perhaps writing about the days when BPW was in Riddel Hall, when it was a fairly unconventional setup and when I actually used it much more than I do now.’
The written responses are due to be completed in March - we’re excited to see what emerges from this creative crossover.