A Belgian Friend (2016) is a new Screenprint edition of 100, made from reworking an original ink drawing from one hundred years ago.
A Belgian Friend is an homage to an anonymous artist from one hundred years ago.
The original illustration is dated 7 June 1916.
The new edition is released 7-6-2016 to coincide with the centenary of the original artwork.
History behind the work
A few years ago whilst strolling around a Tyneside flea market, I stumbled upon a selection of original illustrations torn from an old sketchbook. The pages had yellowed with age and one image particularly charmed me. It looked like the sort of picture you find in vintage men’s publications of the early half of the twentieth century. The image features two figures; one a woman with bunny ears, although the drawing was made 40 years before Playboy’s infamous ‘bunny girls’ were founded.
Additionally, in light of the current discussion around the EU referendum in UK this year, it seemed apt to reinvigorate this Belgian influenced illustration by an unknown artist.
Why would this image turn up in a flea market on Tyneside? One thought is that this image may have been passed down from a person with connections to the Birtley Belgiums; a group of 6000 Belgians (men, women and children), some wounded Belgian soldiers who resided in Birtley during WWI. Many of the Birtley Belgiums worked at a National Projectile Factory producing ammunition shells in the town. Birtley is situated in the Borough of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear. The original drawing was completed a month before the Battle of the Somme, and can be seen as a celebration of camaraderie.
To produce A Belgian Friend (2016), I began by cleaning the original image using digital technology; removing the visibly yellowed effects of ageing in the paper, as well as incidental marks. The French text which accompanies the image reads ‘Comme Allies, On Se Comprend Toujours’ and translates to ‘As Allies, We Are Always Together’. All the original texts, including the artist signature, title and date have been repositioned. Furthermore, the characters themselves have been adjusted. In the original the man and woman stood face-to-face engaged in dialogue whilst the man smoked a cigarette. For the new version I have removed the roll of tobacco and placed the couple side by side, their stance displaying a strong unity.
The two figures stare off the page and look into the future together.
Big thanks to printmaker Nick Christie for his time, skills and expertise with helping me to realise this project.