The fine art of survival

Galway Print Studio staff: Gerard O'Brien, Padraig Conway, Sioban Piercy, Kerry McClure, Leonie King, Mary Geeleher and David Pierce.
Galway Print Studio staff: Gerard O'Brien, Padraig Conway, Sioban Piercy, Kerry McClure, Leonie King, Mary Geeleher and David Pierce.

Lifestyle – A not-for-profit studio space which has supported many of Galway’s finest printmakers is in danger of closure unless it can increase its membership and get more public support. They outline the situation to JUDY MURPHY

In these days of relentless selfies, with ‘influencers’ like the Kardashians glued to their camera-phones, arranging and filtering their images for their Instagram followers and their Snapchat stories, it’s difficult to imagine an era when photography didn’t exist.

But in the dim and distant days before cameras and photos, wealthy people captured their likenesses by commissioning artists to paint them.

And many renowned artists who wanted their work to reach a wider audience used to hire engravers to copy their work as prints.

Some of the world’s greatest painters, including Rembrandt, Durer and Goya, were also gifted etchers and created some of their finest work in the medium of print.

Print is a very democratic art form, according to Gerard O’Brien of Galway Print Studio, which is based in the SCUUL Enterprise Centre, Ballybane, on the east side of Galway City. And he points out that, even today, it’s possible to buy a Rembrandt print for “a few thousand euro”, compared to the gazillion millions that an original painting by the 17th Dutch artist would cost.

Galway Print Studio was set 2000 by a group of locally based artists who specialised in printmaking – a technique that traditionally required a great deal of equipment, much of it expensive. Ursula Kelly, Denise McDonagh, LeighAnne Seale and Paula Gleeson were graduates from the Printmaking course at GMIT and needed a space where they could practise their artform. Originally known as Lorg Printmakers, the collective changed its name to Galway Print Studio in 2015.

The founders were supported in setting up the studio by GMIT lecturer and printmaker Sioban Piercy and Gerard was also involved. The space was an invaluable facility for many fledgling printmakers, he says.

“In college, people had access to expensive equipment and had a place where they could work but, as an individual artist, if you wanted to work in different print media, you wouldn’t have enough space,”.  Its members have included such well-known local artists as Sioban Piercy, Declan Holloway, Leonie King and Margaret Irwin West.

Galway Print Studio is a non-profit arts collective for artists who can’t afford to have full print studio facilities – its aim is to support them, while keeping the tradition of fine art print-making alive in Galway.

Full membership costs €360 a year and brings a broad range of benefits. But at present, the Ballybane-based studio, unique in Galway, is in a financial crisis and needs €10,000 to guarantee its survival.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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