FOR many artists the trajectory is not a straight line, opportunities and the space in our lives to take advantage of them can come at unexpected times and hard work can pay off or go unnoticed. 

Karen Daye-Hutchinson has had a studio at Conway Mill for five years, and with an ever-increasing list of recent breakthroughs, whenever I see her I always like to say simply: "You're on a roll."

Karen studied Foundation Art and Design in Manchester before returning home to Belfast to complete a fine art degree at Belfast School of Art. She  started her exhibiting career in the late eighties but stepped sideways for some years to have a family and set up the city centre shop/gallery Coppermoon.

A long time board member of the Belfast Print Workshop, she thrived in the organisation, developing her skill set while her work was purchased by many collections including UTV, the Office of Public Works, the Equality Commission and the Royal Victoria Hospital. Her evocative series 'A Harlot's Progress', based on Hogarth's etchings of the same name, along with handmade bookmaking skills, complement her drawing aesthetic. The Arts Council of NI purchased a number of prints from her Mapping exhibition at the Culturlánn in 2020, works which were based on 'exploring an emotional journey identified with a childhood upbringing in Belfast during the conflict.'

More recently,  Karen was invited to become a member of the Royal Ulster Academy and soon after a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in London, where she received a fellowship at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venice, a prestige residency which included an exhibition, printmaking studio workspace and accommodation on the Grand Canal, which runs through the centre of Venice. This five-week  residency in the heart of the watery city has inspired her Mappa Venezia (Venice Map) Exhibition currently at the Belfast Print Workshop.

The exhibition is a series of 20 fine art prints using a variety of techniques such as etchings, monoprints, woodcuts, collagraphs and lithographs. Karen said of the experience: "My plan was just to go and absorb my surroundings. Not to carry any particular theme through, just to create what I felt at the time, and enjoy the environment. To bring  a bit of Venice back."

' My plan was just to go and absorb my surroundings. Not to carry any particular theme through, just to create what I felt at the time, and enjoy the environment. To bring  a bit of Venice back'

Durer's Venetian Woman appears over and over as do griffins and other details of architectural features. In time she became more interested in the decaying grandeur of some religious paintings and crumbling buildings, the textures of which are a beautiful feature of her D'Oro (Golden) series. At the end of her visit she found after viewing thousands of images and pieces of art during her time there that it was the quality of the light that she wanted to capture and the result is two large glowing yellow pieces which would warm the dullest day.

Fans of Karen's folded books will be rewarded with a small series of these gems. I asked Karen did she want to just stay? She replied that local artist Deirdre Kelly had done just that – gone to Venice for a residency and never came back and the seduction of the unique city is the inspiration of much of Deirdre's work. Both artists will exhibit together this summer at the ArtisAnn Gallery in Bloomfield Avenue.

Belfast Print Workshop, Cotton Court Building, 30-42 Waring Street, Belfast, BT12ED. Open Monday to Thursday 9.30am to 5.30pm and Friday until 5pm. Mappa Venezia continues until March 27. There is a buzzer at the ground floor entrance to gain entry.