A labour of love and infinite skill

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A WATERSIDE man has combined his skills as a calligrapher with his love of watercolour fine art to produce exquisite art which is being used to help boost the Restoration Fund at St Columb’s Cathedral.

With 12 years as a calligrapher, specialising in Islamic and Arabic calligraphy, and another 10 studying watercolour fine art through the U3A, Cyril Morrison, from the Waterside, has married his artistic skills to create the most exquisite manual reproductions of folios from the Book of Kells.

Using 300gsm paper, Mr Morrison has taken 18 months to reproduce - in minute detail - five of the folios, one of which, ‘Chirho’, took 1,000 hours, or 40 hours a week for six months, to achieve.

Asked how he got started on his creative path, Cyril said that he had begun by getting himself four diplomas in calligraphy, and simply as an occupational hobby after a spell in hospital his creativity blossomed.

“I was in hospital and when I got out, which was quite a while ago now, I had the choice of Arabic or Islamic calligraphy and developing these both, but then I thought about the Book of Kells and I asked myself what tradition I belonged to and thought it would be useful to St Columb’s Cathedral to have pictures of the Book of Kells so that people would not have to travel to see this type of artwork,” he said.

Having started his work in June of 2011 Mr Morrison has now completed five folios, and has allowed the Cathedral to reproduce prints of his artwork which is currently on sale in the Cathedral, either framed or unframed.

“It was a nice thing to be able to do, first of all to raise funds for the Restoration Fund and for the other reason, which is to let people have an opportunity to see artwork from the Book of Kells without having to travel to Trinity College Dublin. It means people can come to the Cathedral to see them,” said Mr Morrison.

Far from rinsing out his brushes, Mr Morrison is working away in his studio creating more art, and ultimately his delightful hand-crafted reproductions will form an exhibition which will be staged in St Columb’s for congregations and visitors alike to admire later in the year as part of the Cathedral’s contribution to facilitating creative art in Christianity during the City of Culture year while also fulfilling the Diocesan vision ‘Transforming Community: Radiating Christ’.

Far from resting on his laurels, Mr Morrison has already lined up his next project: “My initial project was to determine if I could complete work similar to the Book of Kells and I have now done that on best quality Italian paper. I now have calf velum, the same material that was used on the Book of Kells and I am planning to reproduce the five folios on the calf velum.”