ArtWorks Conversations: Colin Darke & Paul Sullivan


Discussion: March 26th 5.30-7.30pm

As part of the ArtWorks Conversation series initiated by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Catalyst Arts will host a discursive event focusing on projects which take a contemporary approach to unfolding issues around public art commissions and re-interrogates notions of collaboration and community in this process.

Artist Colin Darke and Paul Sullivan of Static, Liverpool have been invited to deliver lectures on relevant projects based in Northern Ireland.

Colin Darke will discuss his temporary public work ‘Crash‘ from 1997. Paul Sullivan will present his research on a new project, ‘Four Square Laundry‘.

For more information on the ArtWorks series see here:


In September 1997, the Association of International Art Critics (AICA) held its Congress in Belfast and Derry, organised by Liam Kelly, under the title Art and Centres of Conflict, Outer and Inner Realities. In support of the main conference in Derry, Professor Kelly commissioned a number of artists to make temporary public artworks in the city.

Colin Darke’s commissioned piece was titled Crash, located on the grass banking running from Derry’s 17th-century fortifications to Fahan Street in the lower Bogsidearea of the city. This stretch of the old wall had been for many years a politically contentious space, a flashpoint for tension when the Orange Order and the Apprentice Boys used it as part of their marching routes. The work consisted of an enlarged copy of Malevich’s Black Square, Red Square, cut into the turf, the earth coloured accordingly. The piece was intended to consider the dialectic between material and religious considerations in art around the time of the Russian Revolution, juxtaposed with the debatable identity of the northern sectarian/class conflict.

Four Square Laundry 
On the Twinbrook Estate, Belfast, 2nd October 1972, a British Army undercover operation called the Four Square Laundry Service was ambushed by the Provisional IRA.

The fictitious laundry service toured Catholic areas touting for custom at cut-price rates. The clothes collected could then be subjected to forensic tests and returned the following week. Regular runs would also provide an opportunity for observation of particular suspect houses.

Source: ‘The Guineapigs‘ by John McGuffin (1974, 1981) Chapter 9: Down on the Killing Floor.

Paul Sullivan uses this one incident during the Troubles in order to investigate a wider set of complex issues, in particular the military urban planning tactics that were developed and deployed in Northern Ireland in the early 1970′s, and the possibility that these tactics have subsequently been transferred and continue to be used in major British cities for the purpose of control.

Through the use of doubling every drawing with slight variations – each one referencing either a Republican or a British version of events – the Four Square Laundry drawing series mirror the immediate and long-term points of counter-claim evident from oppositional factions in any war situation, thus making the notion of what is truth and what is lie almost subservient to what needs to operate as myth within the cultural and media contexts of the given situation.

The series also examines how the British Army successfully recruited large numbers of 1st or 2nd generation Irish catholics in Liverpool, who in turn pretty quickly found themselves back in Ireland fighting a war. In examining this issue, the drawings depict the urban environments of the British Army’s recruitment grounds and by proxy, begin to examine the reasons of how and why a relatively recent Irish diaspora would lose such a connection with their immediate past. The drawings also speculate on the urban myth that the British Army built a replica Belfast housing estate in a major British City in order to recruit and train.

The Four Square Laundry drawing series is the first phase of a wider set of works that will lead to a film reconstruction of The Four Square Laundry incident, a performative project and a publication.


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