As artist-in-residence in City East, a building beside the peace line at the junction of the Newtownards Road and the Short Strand in East Belfast, Bronagh Lawson completed a series of over 100 handmade etchings over a period of two and a half years, capturing what she has called ‘the ebb and flow of East Belfast’.
Newly introduced to printmaking, she wanted to use the medium to make a visual comment on her thirteen years experience of developing and running cross-community cross-border development programmes.
The process involved going to newsagents on both sides of the peace line on specific dates and purchasing all the newspapers that informed the two local communities on those particular days. Random images and fragments of text were torn from the newspapers: headlines, local grievances, some extreme, some personal. Using the Chine-collé technique, these fragments were then intuitively positioned on an etching plate, and printed as a limited varied-format edition.
The result is a unique record of the local media perspectives sold on either side of an historic fracture in contemporary East Belfast, a place where many of the events commemorated in the Decade of Centenaries still resonate with a particular intensity.
Bronagh says about her artwork: ‘Nothing exists independent of its own surroundings, including language. Newspapers in Northern Ireland inform the population of events, slanting news to different political persuasions. The chosen text fragments totally change the feel of each edition, just like one’s view of the world is rightly or wrongly changed or confirmed depending on what newspaper one reads.’
Originally from Strangford Lough, Co. Down, Bronagh has a 1st class degree in Textiles / Fashion from Winchester School of Art, England. A Fulbright scholar, she returned from New York to Northern Ireland in 1991, pre ceasefire, wanting to use her creativity more productively. She spent thirteen years designing and running cross-community, cross-border development projects on interface areas in Belfast. In 2004 she moved into her own creative practice as a way of finding expression and looking for new ways to deal with old hurts. After learning traditional printmaking techniques she started to exhibit again in 2005.
Frustrated by the lack of visibility for the artistic community, Bronagh set up Creative Change NI, an online user generated art hub to link galleries and agents of change in Northern Ireland. She has an ongoing collaboration with artist Suellen Semekoski, Adjunct Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Called the Hydrangea Project, this collaboration focuses on art actions that can act as healing mechanisms. They delivered Still Bunker for the East Belfast Arts Festival 2015, taking over a deconsecrated Church of Ireland church on a peace line and programming an exhibition and a series of events.
Bronagh is currently working on a long term project. Intending to experience a religious service in every church of every denomination in Belfast, she has attended 355 to date. These visits will inform her next body of work.
The Irish Architectural Archive would like to acknowledge the support of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ireland 2016 and the British Council.