Aeons ago, on a mysterious island that lay shrouded in a mist heavy sea, an artist had an idea.
And so begins our tale.
Years back I lived in Dublin. I lived there for a long time and I loved it. I loved the noise and the chaos and the rubbishness of the city. The Celtic Tiger was in full swing. There were loaded people everywhere and yet the city seemed to be falling apart as if the map of the place was cut from a Victorian Penny Dreadful. It was great.
At that point I was living under the delusion that I would be a famous comic artist and I spent time drawing and publishing zines that I sold through a tiny anarchist bookshop. Some of the comics I drew were set in a sort of drab steam punk version of Dublin. I don’t remember much about the story or where it was going but here are some of the pages from it.
At some point back in that mysterious land called the past, a friend of mine from Sligo commissioned me to make him an art work. There was no specified theme. Just make something and make it good.
Surf trips to Sligo were not uncommon in the past times but on one trip the sun shone and the whole of Ireland (except the Midlands) did that glorious thing where it looked like an island in the tropics. I remember having some muddled up thoughts about Jurassic World of Humans and I took these thoughts back to Dublin where they became ‘The Sligo that Time Forgot.’
Back then I think that I realised that I had created something decent and instead of leaning into it I backed away with the idea that ‘The Sligo that Time Forgot’ was a one off.
There were a few odd pieces where I mashed up collages of Ireland in a shlock horror style but these were more about experimentation with mixing painting with collage than anything concrete.
Somewhere around this point something happens… there is a gap of some kind where I am sure I am forgetting to include something really important in the story but I can’t quite bring myself to explore the gap.
So, we continue…
Before I had even moved north of the border, I submitted this Mechakong Vs Belfast collage piece to the Eastside Arts Billboard project and the unintentional B-movie invasion of Belfast had begun.
The City Hall flag protests were in full swing when I decided to make the permanent move to Belfast. The city was going full on bonkers with flags and meat wagons and road blockades all over the place. It was a disaster tourist’s delight and the flag protests provided a lot of inspiration for my first exhibition of screen prints: ‘The Belfast that Time Forgot.’
Even after the success of this exhibition I didn’t want to just lean in and become the artist who makes b-movie screen prints of Ireland being battered by a variety bag of monsters from the beyond.
I told myself that the next exhibition would be different. I’d go back to painting and collage and experimentation and I began constructing the idea for a new series of pictures in my head.
In the mean time the Black Box commissioned me to paint their toilets (who said being an artist is all champagne and sideways berets?) and me and fellow artist @szszusigns got to work vertically screen printing on the walls.
Behold the Toilet that Time Forgot!
In this period I was working out of the Belfast Print Workshop full time whilst trying to find an affordable art studio and it was off the back of the vertical screen printing in the Black Box toilets that I started introducing vintage romance comics into my images.
Around this time @szuszu and I used to make money by running live screen printing events. The idea was simple. I’d get commissioned to do a design, expose said design on screen and then we’d turn up to the venue with our homemade mobile screen printing cart and we’d print our happy hearts out.
One of the biggest clients at this point worked out of the RHA in Dublin so every now and again we’d be in a white cube gallery screen printing images of Dublin being destroyed by Kaiju on strangers t-shirts.
Time is not a continuous line or a circle. Time is a glitch. And a glitch in time saves nine.
So here we glitch back a bit to something that I had completely forgotten about until writing this.
The Belfast Culture Night Pop Shop.
Again working with Szuszusigns, the pair of us set up a one day Pop Shop and pop art exhibition in a disused shop in the centre of Belfast. Here we screen-printed a series of b-movie inspired pictures onto punters clothing.
And hot on the heels of the Pop Shop comes this design for Culture Night 2014 which must have been printed onto a bazillion-quintillion tote bags and t-shirts that year.
After that little glitch interlude we’ll skip back to the main timeline and see where that is going to lead us.
By this time I have a studio in Belfast Bankers at the arches on the Newtownards Road. East Belfast is a weird new land, full of promise and monsters in equal measure. The studio itself is dark and cold and musty and has ghosts in the air. But it is mine and in that space I can make as much mess as I desire.
One evening, walking between my studio and my partner’s studio I am hit with an idea that almost forms spontaneously in my mind. FOR GODZILLA AND ULSTER! The text, the colours, the composition all arrive at the same time in one neat little package as if they had been waiting for just the right time to announce themselves.
The first versions of Godzilla and Ulster were screen printed onto large sheets of bright orange poster paper and if you look at the dark areas in the image above you can see the ghost image of Belfast Love Story peering out from the past.
Following the release of this screen print I worked on my first large scale paste up mural job for a pizza place on Castle Street. This (I think) is the first large scale mural I ever created that brought Godzilla, UFOs, robots and meat wagons onto the streets of Belfast.
Around the same time, if anything on this timeline can be reliably put into a sequence, I was working on this commission for the Limelight Bar in conjunction with some booze company of some sort.
The photos that I took of this piece are bloody awful and I only really include these in here to show the creeping addition of giant robots with teddy bear heads.
When we moved studio into a building that had spaces large enough to create massive art pieces, my work moved up a gear, both in quality and scale.
This is the poster from the 2nd open studios event in Vault Artist Studios.
One of the first large pieces made in the theatre of Vault studios was a massive 16m paste up painting mash up called Welcome to Ballymena.
This piece was installed on a construction hoarding in the center of Ballymena town and to this day this piece is the largest single image mural I have created.
Lets return to Dublin for a while…
A couple of years back we went down to Dublin for the now defunct Christmas Flea Market. The market was a 4 day long affair in a shopping centre that had been built and never used as a shopping centre. When it comes to apocalyptic monsters that are destroying cities, town planners are the worst of them.
For this market I created a whole new series of screen prints using famous Dublin landmarks and shlock tropes. Of that series these 2, Dublin Love Story and The Rising, are my favorites.
And zooming back to an earlier Dublin screen print just to make sure that this ‘timeline’ is suitably chronologically bonkers we have this piece below. This screen print was made for centenary of the 1916 uprising and is based upon and old Irish magazine called Our Boys.
Back to the studio in Belfast and I am using the space to create large scale paste-up-paintings on plywood which are then surreptitiously attached to construction hoardings and boarded up shop fronts.
The first version of Belfast Kitty Hall was installed on a boarded up shop front on Castle Street and it lasted a couple of months before either being taken down by the council and dumped or hopefully ending up as an over-sized art work in a tiny front room.
Around then I worked on a mural piece for Dc Tours that merged Kitty Hall, romance comics and general B-movie mayhem in a long frieze of Belfast City.
We are getting to the end of this romp through The Ireland at the End of the World.
There are plenty of art works missing from the sequence, there are plenty of interesting but ultimately failed experiments that may never see the light of day and some that were just a bit too weird to fit.
Here is a small gallery of a pieces that were left on the cutting room floor.
And one last piece before we roll the credits.