National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland
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Project. A Letterpress Celebration of Ulysses

Purpose. When I realised that this year was significant in relation to Ulysses I decided to run a project with my third year Visual Communication students in celebration of the great novel. I thought that editioning a portfolio of work in the department’s Print Workshop at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin in 2004 would not only be an appropriate way to mark the occasion but would also create a unique document for the students’ future reference of what they were doing at this particular time in this particular place.

Assignment. The plot of Ulysses takes place on 16 June 1904. As this year marks the centenary of what has become known as ‘Bloomsday’ each student was asked to produce a graphic response by letterpress to one of the eighteen episodes from what is referred to as the most important literary achievement of the Twentieth Century. James Joyce wrote each chapter of Ulysses in a different style and the hope was that each student would respond accordingly so that when we editioned the work everyone involved would receive a folio made up of a variety of approaches and styles connected by the narrative and given dimensions. The students approached the project with confidence when it was explained that Joyce celebrated the fact that the written word is not ‘owned’ by a literary hierarchy so that each reader of Ulysses pictures their own interpretation of the words he wrote.

Joyce’s summary of the plot was, ‘the epic of two races (Israel and Ireland) and at the same time the cycle of the human body as well as a little story of a day (life)...It is also a kind of encyclopaedia. My intention is not only to render the myth subspecie temporis notri but also to allow each adventure (that is, every hour, every organ, every art being interconnected and interrelated in the somatic scheme of the whole) the condition and even to create its own technique’. To almost every chapter Joyce subtly assigned a specific Dublin location, a particular time of day, organ of the body, art form or intellectual discipline, colour, symbol and technique, and the students were asked to consider these as well as the universal themes of the novel; journey, relationships and return to home.

All type was set by hand and all images had to be produced in a relevant media. The portfolio was printed in an edition of thirty, under the guidance of Seán Sills, so that each student received a complete set of the works with six going to various national collections and archives.

Format. Variable

Time. One week research. One week production


Brendon Deacy, BA (Hons), MA, MIDI, graduated from Leeds Polytechnic with a BA (Hons) in Graphic Design in 1988. He worked for a number of British design agencies before he became an educator. He taught in various colleges before taking up his position as lecturer in Visual Communication at NCAD in 1994. As a visiting tutor he has taught in many colleges including Leeds Metropolitan University, Burnley College of Art, Coventry Technical College, Sutton Coldfield College, Portlaoise Prison (Educational Unit), The Midland Prison, Helsinki University and Lahti Polytechnic, Finland. In 1998 he was awarded an MA from NCAD. He has recently been appointed as external examiner at Cork Institute of Technology.

His commissioned and consultancy work has included clients such as Abacus Books, Abbey National, ABTA, Akajava Films for TG4, Bernard Hodes Advertising, Cadburys, Computer Manuals Ltd, Designed Communication, Dillons the Bookstore, Eagle Works Gallery, Fagins, Hammick’s Bookstore, Hugh Lane Municipal Art Gallery, Knowledge Box Ltd, Radharc (RTÉ), Que Books and Wolfhound Press. Significant public collections hold examples of his personal work including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Trinity College Dublin, The National Library of Ireland, Birmingham Central Library, Manchester Metropolitan University, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, The Office of Public Works, The Ohio State University, University of Delaware, Georgetown University, Washington DC, Wexford Arts Centre and Laois County Council. His work is also in many private collections in Europe and the UK.

In 1998 he published The State We’re Out a limited edition ‘novel without words’ about Irish Emigration, with a foreword by Roddy Doyle, which was printed on letterpress at NCAD. He is currently working on another book and exhibition due for 2006, which will be shown at the Helix, Dublin, The Linen Hall, Castlebar, The Dunamaise Arts Centre and The Rossendale Museum. He has contributed an article about this work in progress to CIRCA (No 107, Spring 2004). He is a member of the Michael Davitt Centenary Conference Committee and is involved in organising this international conference to be held at St Patrick’s College, Dublin in 2006.

Solo exhibitions:
1992 Eagle Works Gallery, Wolverhampton.
1994 Keele University, Staffordshire.
1998 The Graphics Studio, Dublin.
Foxford Exhibition Centre, County Mayo.
The Station Master’s Exhibition Centre, Kiltimagh, County Mayo.
1999 Birmingham Central Library, UK.
Mountshannon Arts Centre, County Clare.
Dunamaise Arts Centre, County Laois.

He has also contributed to many group exhibitions and represented Ireland at the Kandinsky to Corneille, Linoleum in 20th Century Art, exhibition at the Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Amstelveen, in The Netherlands.


Brendon Deacy

Seán Sills studied at the School of Printing D.I.T. Dublin and London School of Print. He worked in the print industry for many years and lectured at the School of Printing, D.I.T. before taking up his position at NCAD in 1983.

Sills is a member of the Print Historical Society and a curator of the National Print Museum Ireland. He has conducted workshops for many different organizations including the Paul Getty Foundation U.S., Texas Christian University Dallas, Irish Print Museum, and Trinity College Dublin. Consultancies include Northern Ireland Trust, Airfield Trust Dublin, Case Project-Leitrim Enterprise Board, Linographics Ltd. Texas.

He collaborated with the National Gallery of Ireland on its first contemporary exhibition of Print ‘Art into Art’, and the Chester Beatty Library for their exhibition ‘The Holy Show’. He has also been commissioned to print numerous limited edition artist books.

Work produced at the NCAD workshop is purchased by the rare book section of Trinity College Dublin, the National Library of Ireland and Wexford Book Arts Exhibition.

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Sean Sills