Bob Dylan Arrives In Belfast

Ireland's only exhibition of the rock icon's artwork arrives at the Bradbury Gallery

Bob Dylan is one of the most influential and controversial figures in music. Over the last 46 years he has released 44 albums and written more than 500 songs including 'Blowin' in the Wind', 'The Times They Are A-Changin', 'Like a Rolling Stone', 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' and 'Make You Feel My Love'. 

Selling more than 110 million records around the world, his songs have been covered more than 3,000 times by artists as diverse as Sonny and Cher, The Byrds, the Rolling Stones, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Jarrett, Guns N' Roses, Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Marley, Pearl Jam and Neil Young.

In April 2008, Dylan received a Special Citation Pulitzer Prize 'for his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power'. 

It is perhaps a little-known fact, however, that he of the wobbly voice and transcendent lyrics is also a keen painter, and that Belfast is set to host the Irish premiere of his The Drawn Blank Series of paintings this August.

Belfast's Bradbury Gallery will be showing selected Dylan works from The Drawn Blank Series, together with new re-worked versions of older paintings and a magnificent collection of signed, limited edition graphics. 

Curator and all-round art expert Tanya Regan explains the appeal.

Bob Dylan, eh? That's quite a coup.

'Woman in the Red Lion Pub', limited edition screen print by Bob Dylan The exhibition's been in Rolling Stone, the Guardian, the international Herald Tribune. It's definitely a big deal. There's been people emailing from Italy, Australia... it's amazing. Isis magazine - a Bob Dylan publication - and Expecting Rain, which is the place for Bob Dylan, has all kids of interest. It's opened my eyes, and I would have been a fan of his music. I had Bob Dylan CDs when I was in school but I couldn't believe just how much interest the exhibition is drawing.

That's what I was wondering about. In a strange way I didn't know if this was a big deal because not everybody loves Bob Dylan.

If you can believe it, we were a bit cynical. When we heard that the gallery had secured a rock star I thought it was Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones. I think there are so many Bob Dylan fans out there and that so many of them are of an age now that they're the people that can afford to buy the art. One of the complete collections of prints has been sold for £33,500, but has gone up to £54,950 on the secondary market. These 'Train Tracks', we got these in and they're already sold, £12,000 for three portfolios - and they're now being sold for £24,500. 

Hold on. Those 'Train Tracks', they're the actual paintings? 

These are some, yes. These are some of the portfolio collections - there's four of the same image, done in different colours. 

Like Andy Warhol? 

The Bradbury Gallery's Tanya Regan, pictured next to work by Neil Dawson Yep. Here, there's 'Man on a Bridge', 'Train Tracks', and 'The Woman at the Red Lion Pub'. Four each, sold as a set. Around £12,000 for the set, and we had a guy who bought these straight away. Now if you split them, I saw one set of four sold recently for £9,000.

The Bradbury Gallery is the only place in Ireland that has this exhibition. As a newcomer, I'm looking at these and making lofty comparisons. Picasso or Van Gogh.

Well that's it, there have been comparisons. People have been saying that about the café scenes, the women in bed. Have you had a look on the gallery website?

Ahh... not as yet, no.

Well in terms of the Drawn Blank series, they have the standard graphic, the medium graphic, and then the portfolio.
   

Are the images in the series reproductions?

They're limited edition prints. They're signed, numbered, with the edition numbers. There are 250 in total. Well, 295, but Bob Dylan kept 45 of each image. So the public can get access to 250 of each image.

Are the different formats the same pictures only bigger?

No, the graphics are different. But some from the standard graphic series and some from the medium series meet in the portfolio collection.

This thing about the train tracks - is that a motif? Sometimes when I think of Bob Dylan I think of a hobo with a stick and bindle travelling across America.

Well I think the way he's done these is when he's been touring. He's brought a sketch pad along and w
herever he's been he's been sketching. And in some of them you can actually see that, like this version of 'The Woman in the Red Lion Pub', she probably doesn't even know she's been sketched.

At the risk of sounding blunt, is this a cash-in?

'Train Tracks', limited edition print by Bob Dylan No, not at all. I think the ethos is that at his age, he doesn't need the money. I don't know whether it's a vanity thing, or accomplishment or something. I think a lot of people are looking at this as a way of having his signature. He has had to sit and individually sign every single one of these. 

Ah! It reminds me of the story about Salman Rushdie, signing 1,000 books in Budapest to outdo Malcolm Gluck's record.

A lot of people are thinking that this is the one way to get Dylan's signature. The guy I mentioned who bought this series has bought 14 others. Obviously he's not going to keep them all. People are looking at these for investment. The prices are going up as we speak, and we can't get any more of them. 

Kiran Acharya

Bob Dylan's Drawn Blank series premieres at the Bradbury Gallery, Belfast on Saturday August 9 at 10am. Visit www.bradburygallery.co.uk for more information.