Putting the Ohhh Back in Origami at the Belfast Print Workshop

Take this art home with you, and all the proceeds go to charity!

There’s just something about print-art that lends itself to the idea of fun. Other mediums can do it (how could anyone look at Brendan Jamison’s bright yellow wool helicopter and not feel joyful?), but rarely so effortlessly. Maybe it harks back to those halycon days of potato-stamps and water paints – when two blurry circles were all it took to get your art hung (on the fridge)? Although, obviously, with a lot more skill than a 3-year old with half a potato brings to the table.

Taking Home With You, the latest exhibition at the Belfast Print Workshop Gallery, is a perfect example of that blend of artistic sensibility and plain old fun – with a little bit of social conscience thrown in (100% of the proceeds go to victims of the recent Japanese tsunami). Hung on the white-washed walls of the Gallery are colourful blue-prints for imaginary, idealistic homes, all ready for their new owner to cut, fold and glue them into 3-D card sculptures. That is, if anyone is brave enough.

I probably wouldn’t be – put I used to accidentally rip the arms off my cardboard fashion dolls (Did I just date myself?). For us fraidy-cats, though, you can buy the pre-folded sculpture – with no extra charges for construction.

Print artists from around the world have contributed to the exhibition, with everything from a paper bag high-rise to a literal house of cards. Everyone who comes in, curator Justin Connolly , says has their own favourite.

He has a soft spot for the Hello House mobile by Sang-Mi Yoo, the artist who originally conceived on the exhibition to support efforts to rebuild New Orleans post-Katrina. It is a pastel pink, one-storey cottage that Hello Kitty would be proud to call her own (although I can’t see it appeal to Badtz Maru) suspended in a stylised cloud.


 Sang-Mi Yoo. Hello House. 2012.

Sang-Mi Yoo. Hello House. 2012.

 Deceptively simple to look at, although probably not to construct, Hello House manages to capture the idea of ‘home is where the heart is’. It is a daydream of an idealised home.

While Yoo makes an artistic virtue of simplicity, other pieces are almost baroque. Kathy McGhee portrays Home as an over-grown ‘secret garden’ with an almost Victorian sensibility to the black on cream detailing. The constructed piece does double-duty as both sculptural art and a lantern, a light to welcome people home. Stylistically it is a very different piece to Yoo’s, but both are charming and hopeful.

The Goddess Isn’t Always 72 and Sunny, however, strikes a more cautionary, but no less attractive note, with Stacey Elko’s digitally printed house of cards. Using a self-designed deck of cards – including the Ace of Water Sprinklers, the Two of Oil Derricks and the Suicide Chimp King – Elko’s piece points how foolish it is to mistreat the only home planet humanity has.

The Goddess Isn't Always 72 and Sunny, Stacey Elko

The Goddess Isn’t Always 72 and Sunny, Stacey Elko

 One of the most popular pieces, so far, is Lubbock, Texas artist (and ex-University of Ulster lecturer at the University of Ulster) David Dubose. Connolly has had to order more prints from the artist after demand outstripped supply.

 Dubose took a more abstract approach with  Yellow House with Cone, creating a piece that starts understated (almost lazy compared to some of the more complex structures) but becomes imbued with meaning the more time you spend with it. The simple yellow shapes he uses are the scaffolding for the ‘home’ within, the sketched in red everyday household items that turn a building into somewhere you live.

Yellow House with Cone, David Dubose

Yellow House with Cone, David Dubose

The cone represents the forces of nature that threaten to ‘push populations out of their homes’. It was inspired by Dubose’s own memories of the terrible 1970s tornados that raged through America’s Tornado Alley (where Lubbock is situated).

 Other pieces on display in the Belfast Print Workshop Gallery include an Indian-inspired houseboat by Amanda Rouse (complete with a daunting list of instructions), a colourful piece by Melanie Yazzie that evokes a sense of evolving folk-lore and a beautifully defaced architectural study by Mariana Smith in Is House Improbable.


 Easily distracted as I am by bright colours (and I am) and impressive as the entire exhibition is, the Smith piece is my favourite. Smith took a gorgeous study of incomplete and improbable houses ‘accumulating along the structures of Renaissance perspective’ and overlaid a childhood drawing of her own. It captures her idea that ‘homeness’ comes from the connection between people, but there is also something intrinsically domestic about a blueprint being improved by a child’s drawing.

Is House Improbable, Mariana Smith

Is House Improbable, Mariana Smith

As anyone with important print-outs and small children can attest, home is where someone draws on your spreadsheets in crayon.

Taking Home With You has quirky, multi-purposed art for a good cause, where else can you get something like that for £60?

The Taking Home With You exhibition is at the Belfast Print Workshop Gallery until mid-February.