Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Artist Denzil Browne's photography turns Derry into model city

Aerial image of Derry city centre

Take a look – and then look again.

These images may look like Northern Ireland's most ambitious toy railway set, but they're actually aerial shots of Londonderry.

The pictures were taken from a helicopter by photographer and artist Denzil Browne and then tweaked to produce a curious 'toytown' effect.

It's part of a project funded by the City of Culture called Derry: Model City.

"It's a combination of aerial shots and then applying a focus technique called tilt shift to the images, which gives them the effect that there is a very shallow band of focus, so it looks like a model or a toy town," the Dungannon-born artist explained.

"It's something that I've wanted to do for years, a wee thing I've had in the back of my head for a long time.

"I remember seeing a show in the Belfast Exposed gallery years ago that used tilt shift. I remember it affecting me then, and looking around for ideas for tilt shift projects.

"But it requires, at the very least, getting access to a very tall building or going up in a helicopter so it was way out of my budget to do something like that."

This year, a bursary from the City of Culture allowed Denzil to pursue the project at last.

Some of the images are taken from a helicopter, while others are taken from vantage points on tall buildings.

"I'm very grateful to Austins, the City Hotel, St Columb's Cathedral and Debenhams who all allowed me access to their rooftops," Denzil said. "It's looking at Derry and its famous architecture from a new vantage point and celebrating the architecture of the old and well-known buildings, and also the massive amount of regeneration that has gone on.

"For me, the idea is using this tilt shift technique to make a real scene look like a tiny little model, like a railway model or an architectural model.

"Over the last couple of years people in Derry have got very used to seeing these models and plans for new buildings. The idea is to think about it and how every building in Derry, no matter how old it is, whether it's the Guildhall, the Courthouse, St Columb's Cathedral, at one stage was on the architect's drawing board."

... and the wee ratbag whose food-stealing was its downfall

This is the 'ratbag' that shocked and mesmerised visitors to the London Street gallery in Derry in equal measure.

And artist Denzil Browne, who created the piece in the No Jury No Prize exhibition – an elegantly designed clutch bag made out of a rat pelt – says he and the animal "had history".

"The piece itself is a taxidermied rat, a dead rat that has been cured and made into a cloth bag. It has a beautiful red satin lining and contains a lipstick and a mobile phone. I had my mobile number saved on the phone as The Artist, so I could ring it and the number would come up," Denzil said.

"I was actually visiting the Turner Prize exhibition in London when somebody started sending me these text messages from the phone pretending to be the rat – things like 'I'm bored' or 'I'm hungry'!"

The rat was caught at Denzil's home in Carrigans, Co Donegal. Denzil learned how to cure pelts from his mother-in-law, Donegal based artist Sarah Lewtas, who works with found objects, often including bone and feathers.

"Me and the rat had a bit of history –it was stealing food from our chickens in the garden," he said.

"It had been at it for months and we could not get it, but eventually we caught it in a trap.

"When I picked it up, it was massive and actually quite cute, like an oversized mouse. I think rats get a bit of a bad press.

"Since I know how to cure pelts I really wanted to do something with it. I literally there and then just thought of the 'ratbag' pun and it just had to be."

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