Sarah Pierce

Black Church Process 2013/14

Master Printmaker: Janine Davidson

My dear Betty, 2014, Etching with chine collé and digital prints


‘My dear Betty, It has been very remiss of me not to have written to you before now, to offer my congratulations on your engagement. I was away and you were away and there was no immediate hurry, and I always put off everything...' The letter continues, woven with affection and good humour by a mentor who clearly holds his student Betty in high esteem. His fondness is palpable. It underlines the jests about getting married (a fate befallen to 'pretty girls') and abandoning painting for a new life. But beneath the gentle tease is an undertone of regret - not for what could have been, but for a future that will be where Betty Webb has given up being an artist. Donal Maguire, curator and Administrator of the ESB Centre for the Study of Irish Art at the National Gallery of Ireland, where the letter is now kept, showed it to me as part of my general research into the Irish canon.

After her death, her sons handed the letter over to the National Gallery, together with a few sheets of negatives that document the paintings Webb made in her lifetime. Workmen, sailors, still lifes, a donkey, portraits of family members - father, husband, children, grandchildren. So she did not abandon art, not entirely. Although the historical status of the letter's author is primarily why the National Gallery acquired Webb's effects, the assimilation of her papers into the archive brought an unexpected story about the ordinariness of being an artist. For my print with Black Church Print Studio we have received permission from the Webb family to reproduce the letter as an etching, along with an inverse digital print of a negative from the file that reveals a portrait of Webb as an art student, and a present day photograph of the file in context. The prints form a portfolio that will be deposited in the CSIA archive where it will exist for posterity
alongside the originals.

* The Betty Webb file, courtesy of the Centre for the Study of Irish Art at the National
Gallery of Ireland.

* The sound element for Sarah Pierce's work was commissioned by Sven Anderson for
Continuous Drift (2014), a project initiated as part of the Dublin City Public Art Programme.





Black Church Process is a new Studio initiative that invites leading art practitioners from other art disciplines to work with the resources of the print studio. This programme offers an insight into the potential of printmaking while promoting and positioning it within contemporary art practice. The projects are intended to be an exploratory process, initiated by the artist's vision, and facilitated by the skills and experience of a dedicated printmaking team of master printmakers and print coordinators. Artists are encouraged to explore the various possibilities that printmaking present to them. The collaboration between artist and studio aims to give the practitioner a comprehensive understanding of the processes and concepts of this art form and to lead to new and exciting directions in their practice.