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PS2 – Paragon Studios Cabinet

PS2Cabinet J.Leech June 2017Over the upcoming weeks artist Johanna Leech will be showing stories and collections in the PS2 cabinet.  These will change every few weeks and will be documented on her website.  This cabinet will allow you a glimpse into what her practice is, and to show work previously not seen in Belfast.

“I see my art practice as an adventure.  I’m an explorer presenting my discoveries. I select and create imagery that draws in the viewer through the familiar and the commonplace. Stemming from a lifelong obsession with collecting, the subject matter combines influences from travel, social interactions, history, iconography, myths, legends and museum categorization.”

Mourne Mountains
Diary entry, iphone photographs, rocks

Friday 15th July 2016

I’m standing on the rocks at the beach in Annalong, Northern Ireland. It’s one of those ‘not pretty’ stone beaches, stark in comparison to white gleaming sand beaches. It’s windy, making the waves loud, and 8pm so they are returning to the coast. It’s overcast but the wind is warm against my cheeks like a hug or a ghostly hand. I bend down to touch the water in the rock pool, it’s also warm, tempting me to dip my feet in.

The mountains are behind me, The Mourne Mountains (who famously ‘sweep down to the sea’) they are surrounded by menacing black clouds which are moving towards me. I climb on to the large slabs of stone to get closer to the sea. I turn to face the rocks, towards the land. The stone slabs are like layers in a cake slanting away from the water, the waves have cut into them over time. They are covered in scrapes from the smaller stones that have been brushed against them with the force of the waves. I run my finger over their grooves imagining what made them. These rock slabs look like their own landscapes, their own mountains. Dramatic ranges, to subtle slopes. Transporting me to Everest or The Rocky Mountains. I start to photograph them, framing these new landscapes in my view finder. Areas with moss and water become tropical places. Others mirror the Mourne Mountains above them.

The sea is getting closer and I’m drawn to it, turning around. I stand as close as I can to feel its pull, to feel the draw back before the wave crashes in. I stand and watch it for a time, zoning out. I imagine how it would feel for my body to get sucked out with it, strangely peaceful. I want to go for a swim, to float off with it. But I’m stuck here, on the rocks, me and my new mountains. The wind is picking up, but still oddly warm, that moment before a storm, The Mournes have been swallowed by the dark clouds. I’ve only my new mountains at my feet now. So I withdraw out of the mist, back inside.

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PS2 – Paragon Studios – www.pssquared.org

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Artist residency Lapua, Finland

Jan 2017 – Artist residency at Vanha Paukku kulttuuri- ja yrityskeskus, Lapua, Finland

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I took part in a two week residency in Cultural Centre Vanha Paukku, Lapua in Finland. Vanha Paukku is an arts complex with galleries, a museum, artist residency building with studios, visitors centre, library, artisan shops, cafeteria and a movie theatre. During the two weeks I had a studio in the main residency building.

The Vanha Paukku building was previously The State Cartridge Factory established in 1923, a significant employer and important part of Finnish history. In 1976 an explosion in the loading department took the lives of 40 factory employees, a significant national tragedy for Finland.
Their museum in the complex focused on local histories, their famous tragedy and traditions including wartime Finland. I was able to learn of its communist connections and saw artefacts and interesting imagery and logos associated with it. There was also a shooting range in Vanha Paukku where a local marksman Arvi (who worked in the new Nammo Lapua Ammunition factory) practices. He showed me the Lapua bullets and memorabilia he collected and even taught me to shoot a riffle. He gave me a few bullet shell mementos that have Lapua impressed on them.  I want to use the documentation I took of his office, memorabilia and the Lapua bullets to make some new prints. I have a collection I started in America of old gun prints which I can now develop more with the Lapua bullet collection and imagery. The town’s crest also has very striking imagery of a man with a club riding a polar bear.  I will develop the work back at Seacourt to create new prints.

Double Vision Exhibition

‘Double Vision’ group show presented symbiotic relationships explored through original printmaking as part of a regional Festival in Finland. The exhibition was hosted by Cultural Centre Vanha Paukku, in Lapua during August 2016. This will be part of a regional festival exploring symbiosis.

Screen print – ‘Killers of Eden’

“In a town called Eden in New South Wales, Australia, an unusual relationship between man and whale took place. The Davidson fishermen worked in partnership with a pod of Killer Whales to collectively bring down larger Baleen Whales. They had adopted this relationship from their Yuin Aboriginal crewmen who taught them of the whales’ behaviour. The Killer Whales (including their leader Old Tom) would signal the fishermen and lead them out to where the pod were holding the whale. The fishermen would harpoon the beast while the killers wore it down and prevented it to move. As the killer whales only ate the tongue, the fishermen returned the next day to remove the body. It was know as ‘The Law Of The Tongue’. This continued for three generations until a beached killer whale was knifed by a vagrant. There is a museum dedicated to the killers of Two Fold Bay in Eden which has the skeleton of Old Tom who had returned to work with the fishermen alone.”

Eden’s Blueprint

16th May – 24th June 2016. ‘Eden’s Blueprint’, Peroia City Gallery, Arizona, USA
[Toured to Antrim and Belfast International Airport, & Brussels until March 2017]

This partnership project was with Seacourt and Clotworthy House Art Centre in Antrim.  This exhibition of original prints were inspired the historic site of Antrim Castle.   Antrim Castle Gardens are of the most unique and historically intact gardens in the UK and throughout Ireland. The former seat of the Skeffington family, Viscounts Massereene and Ferrard, Antrim Castle occupied its imposing setting on the banks of the Sixmilewater River since 1610. The family began laying out the gardens in the 17th century. While the castle itself was destroyed by fire in 1922 the principal Anglo-Dutch water features of the gardens, though somewhat neglected, have remained largely intact. These unique historic gardens, located close to Antrim town centre, recently underwent a major programme of works to restore many of the key features dating back to the late 17th century. The Heritage Lottery Fund’s recognition of Antrim Castle Garden’s historical significance provided the impetus for Antrim Borough Council to undertake what was the biggest garden restoration project seen in Northern Ireland.

 

Johanna Leech
Title: The Souls of Poor Folk
Technique: archival inkjet
Alexander Irvine was born in Pogue’s Entry in the town of Antrim in 1863. This image is from a photograph in a book containing two of his novels; My Lady Of The Chimney Corner (1913) & The Souls Of Poor Folk (1921). The grounds of Antrim Castle must have played host to a few of the fairy tales he regales in these book.

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Art Vend

January 2016 ‘Art Vend Project’ Oriel Wrecsam, Wrexham, Wales

Since 1973, Oriel Wrecsam has presented engaging, exciting and sometimes controversial exhibitions to the general public of Wrexham and further afield.

Their first off-site project is Art Vend, which has been developed in partnership with Leeds based Woolgather Art Collective. Oriel Wrecsam has commissioned artists to create miniature artworks, which can now be purchased for £1 each from their town centre Art Vending machine.  The machines will be sited in a wide variety of public places, and moved around regularly as part of Oriel Wrecsam’s mission to make contemporary art accessible to all.

The commissioned artists include students and professional practitioners, working both locally and across the UK. The artworks include limited edition prints, ceramic sculpture, handmade books and USB sticks containing specially created digital work, amongst many others.

Art-vend-slider

 

Stories in the capsules are collected from the surrounding areas in Wales:

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In the mid to late 20th century in Chirk, Wrexham.  There was a haunting manifestation in a block of old council flats of several ghostly figures.  Including a woman in a Salvation Army uniform and a blind man with a stick.  It is said that weird white faces peared in through the windows.
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May 2008 at Chirk Castle, Wrexham a photographer claimed to have captured a ghost on film.  He had been experimenting with long shutter speeds on his camera when he caught a semi-transparent female form outside the chapel. He claimed there was no one standing there when he took it. Unfortunately, as long shutter speeds can quite easily make people look semi-transparent, the chances of this being any form of apparition is pretty remote.
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Sometime in the ‘00s a haunting manifestation was reported at Packhorse Bridge in Caergwrle, Wrexham.  A team from the Cheshire Paranormal Society photographed a strange white figure crossing this footbridge late at night during one of their vigils. It is said a total of three spirits haunt the bridge, a young girl and two older women.
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Beddgelert is home to the grave of Wales’s most famous hound owned by the Gwynedd Prince – Llywelyn the Great. The prince ruled Wales over 800 years ago with Gelert the dog at his side.  One afternoon the Prince returned home to find Gelert in his son’s room, covered in blood.  Thinking that the dog had killed his son, the Prince plunged his sword into the hound’s heart. As the dog howled Llywelyn heard a cry of the baby under the toppled cradle, with a dead wolf at its side.  With great remorse the Prince buried his dog outside of the castle walls, the grave can still be seen today.
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The Afanc is a lake monster from Welsh mythology.  Sometimes described as taking the form of a crocodile, giant beaver or dwarf – it is a demonic creature. The afanc is said to attack and devour anyone who entered its waters. Several sites lay claim to its domain, among them Llyn Llion, Llyn Barfog and Llyn-yr-Afanc a lake in Betws-y-Coed.
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When the great king Owain Gwynedd died in 1170 a violent and bloody dispute arose between his 13 children regarding the succession. Madoc and his brother Rhirid decided to leave their homeland and sailed westward. Legend states Madoc found America, the New World. Him and his sailors inter-married with a local Native American tribe, and for years the rumour of Welsh speaking Native American tribes was widely believed.
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Records of an enormous wolf-like animal in North Wales date back to 1790, when a stagecoach travelling between Denbigh and Wrexham was attacked and overturned by an enormous black beast almost as long as the coach horses.  The terrifying animal tore into one of the horses and killed it, while the other horse broke free from its harness and galloped off into the night.  The attack took place just after dusk, with a full blood red moon, “bad moon on the rise” was whispered in travellers’ inns across the region.

In the winter of 1791, a farmer and a blacksmith followed enormous wolf-like tracks across fields.  It led to a scene of mutilation which made the villagers in the area quake with fear that night.  A snow-covered field became soaked with blood – dotted with carcasses of sheep, cattle and a farmer’s dog.  The owner of the farm was found locked up in his house terrified. He had barricaded himself in after witnessing an enormous black animal that resembled a wolf ripping the throat out of his sheepdog.  The farmer said the wolf pounded on the heavy oak door, almost knocking it off its hinges. The weird-looking animal then stood up on its hind legs like a human and looked in through the windows of the farmhouse.
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Vanishing Futures: Collective Histories of Northern Irish Art

23rd October–5th December 2015 

Vanishing Futures is the twelfth and final instalment of the Golden Thread Gallery’s series of Collective Histories of Northern Irish Art exhibitions that launched in 2005. Having previously invited eleven curators to each share their personal versions of Northern Irish Art History Peter Richards, the series instigator, now shares his.

Through the instalment Richards reflects on: a number of strands of thought around history and mediation; artists and artworks; the moments and things, that have shaped his understanding of Art in the North of Ireland. The exhibition will feature works from the late 1970’s through to the present day and celebrate a sense of world-weary déjà vu.

Including artists such as: Tom Bevan; Charlie Bosanquet; Sinead Breathnach-Cashell; Lorraine Burrell; Lisa Byrne; Ursula Burke; Miriam de Búrca; Ian Charlesworth; Colin Darke; Maurice Doherty; John Duncan; Factotum; Ciara Finnegan; Graham Gingles; Gerry Gleason; Carol Graham; Michael Hanna; Phil Hession; Tony Hill; Allan Hughes; Johanna Leech; Terry Loane; Lisa Malone; Shiro Masuyama; Michael Minnis; Locky Morris; Susan MacWilliam; Connor McFeely; Deirdre McKenna; Mary McIntyre; Moira McIver; William McKeown; Tonya McMullan; Philip Napier; Aisling O’Beirn; Ciaran Ó Dochartaigh; Sinead O’Donnell; Brendan O’Neill; Jack Pakenham; Paul Seawright; Gary Shaw; Dan Shipsides; Theo Sims; Victor Sloan; Peter Spiers; and Una Walker, Alastair Wilson.

Inside the capsules were ‘memories’ of previous work I had created in the Golden Thread gallery. These included: memorable gift stories I had collected from the public during ‘Re-gift Amnesty’, legends and pine needles from the exhibition ‘LEFTOVERS’.