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Richard Johnston

Richard served an engineering apprenticeship before joining the Merchant Navy as a marine engineer in 1964 and considered himself fortunate to sail in a few of the great Union Castle and Royal Mail ships that had been built in Belfast. Throughout his adult life he maintained a great interest in painting and tutored students for over twenty years. When he retired, he became a full-time practising painter. His paintings focused on the site once occupied by Harland and Wolff and in particular the desolation, isolation and decay that took over from what was once an area of heavy industry by capturing the solitude and silence that pervaded.
Speaking in 2006 “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 world’s leading shipbuilders, so post war Belfast, for me anyway, was a great place to grow up in.” “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 was once home to one of the greatest ship builders in the world.” Richard died in 2021. Rather fittingly, many of his large paintings adorn the walls of the Titanic Hotel in Belfast which incorporates part of the original Harland and Wolf administration buildings.
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