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Richard Johnston

I have always had a great interest for ships and the sea, Belfast in the early fifties was a major seaport and Harland and Wolff one of the worlds leading shipbuilders, so post war Belfast, for me anyway, was a great place to grow up in. After serving an engineering apprentice-ship, I joined the Merchant Navy as a marine engineer in 1964 and was fortunate to sail in a few of the great Union Castle and Royal Mail ships that had been built in Belfast.
Throughout my adult life I have maintained a great interest in painting and have tutored students for over twenty years and recently I took early retirement to become a full time practising painter. In my current work I am looking at the site once occupied by Harland and Wolff and trying to portray the desolation, isolation and decay that has now taken over from what was once an area of heavy industry. I am also trying to capture the solitude and silence that now pervades. The two cranes, Samson and Goliath, have long been a major feature of the Belfast landscape and working on a large scale enables me to position them correctly in their present environment, standing defiantly, long after the last ship sailed, the workforce gone and the gates closed. I see these cranes, not as the essential element of my work, they contributed little to the success of the shipyard, but rather, as memorials to the tens of thousands of skilled men and women who had helped establish Belfast as a leading ship builder. My work is of mixed medium on canvas and is usually heavily textured. I include photographs showing images of the shipyard, its workers and ships taken during its heyday, in doing so, I believe that I introduce real life to my work and give the viewer the opportunity to maybe relate on a more personal basis with the work. In conclusion, I hope my work will serve as a reminder to the viewer that when we look at this now deserted silent landscape it had was once home to one of the greatest ship builders in the world.
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