Jun 11 • 33M

Holding fast, in cells and on high seas

Printmaker and currach rower Seán Hanrahan used tattoo imagery from sailors and prisoners to convey messages of hope, mercy and love in his current exhibition in the punishment cells of Spike Island.

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Remember to click play above to listen to Seán in his studio talking about some of the themes that guide his work in printmaking and beyond.

Seán Hanrahan with three works from his latest series on the theme of misinformation and media, Dupe Voyages. Photo: Ellie O’Byrne

Seán Hanrahan knows that taking part in Cork’s Ocean To City race means a lot of holding fast; he’s completed the race several times in Fionnbarra, the flagship longboat of community boatbuilders Meitheal Mara.

“It’s a three-and-a-half-hour slog, a hard slog, and you have to hold fast to get through it,” he says.

Hold Fast is, of course, the phrase that hardened old sailors used to have tattooed on their knuckles.

An artist and a long-standing member of Cork Printmakers and based in the Backwater artist’s studios on Wandesford Quay, Hanrahan has found a way to delve into that bodily knowledge of what it’s like to endure at sea in his latest exhibition, titled Hold Fast, which is currently on show in the punishment cells of Spike Island, once the biggest prison in the world, which has in recent years become a key tourist attraction in Cork Harbour.

Sailors and prisoners both, of course, have a strong tattooing tradition and Hanrahan has taken the iconography of tattoos, imbued with an underlying message of resilience, for this pop-up exhibition.

Seán Hanrahan’s Mercy, on display in one of Spike Island’s punishment cells. Photo: Seán Hanrahan

If you press play above you’ll hear a conversation about this work, but also about his latest series, Dupe Voyages. Like much of his work over the past decade, Hanrahan’s Dupe Voyages uses Halftone, the dots that print images are made up of, as a motif.

The mixed media series is concerned with the “Age of Misinformation;” he says it’s a “reflection on the media and how they give you information that you perceive to be right or correct.”

Last chance to see: Seán Hanrahan’s Hold Fast is on view in the punishment cells of Spike Island prison until Monday, June 13 as part of Cork Harbour Festival. Boats depart for Spike hourly from 10am until 3pm; entry to the exhibition is free but you will have to pay for the Spike Island Tour. Info here.

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