2 weeks ago

Artistic License: Elizabeth Magill

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Completed during lockdown on the Antrim coast, Elizabeth Magill’s new paintings, collectively titled “Her Nature”, explore physical and psychological relationship to the land …

Tell us how these paintings began – and their inspiration.

My main workplace is in an industrial studio complex in East London, the building also caters for about 30 fellow artists. During lockdown I was fortunate to have an alternative space – a converted barn on the Antrim coast, where my partner and I have been managing some farmland. Over the last years we have also planted around 5,000 indigenous trees. I relocated there for five months from March – until the restrictions lifted at the beginning of this summer.

My work is formed and informed by many sources, including nature but also film, photographs, art and daily observations. But this particular body of work titled “Her Nature” grew out of a specific time and place. Perhaps the emphasis on the natural world was inevitable, as this location is very rural and exposed to the elements and the North Channel. I found solace both in the countryside and in making this work, mainly because I was relieved to be on pause for a while; it helped me reconsider my art practice away from the things that a busier life impinges on.

Each image is different but makes a cohesive whole was this intentional?

I usually work on several canvases at the same time. This period is experimental and fluid, deliberately avoiding any preconceived notions of how the painting will eventually look upon completion. Somewhere during this process I arrive at a stage where I see connections and juxtapositions and I begin to emphasise or reinstate these crossovers, to try to make things more cohesive. I often liken my paintings to songs – each has a different tune or construct. An exhibition for me is an album where all the different elements work in harmony and sometimes discord, producing a collective sense that hopefully resonates with the viewer.

Do you have any favourites from the new exhibition and if so which and why?

I feel attached to a number of works in this show including, “Pink Mineral”, “Location” and “Murmur”. Murmur is from the word murmuration, which is the term for a large number of starlings in flight; also it’s my reference to Steve McQueen’s film Hunger. His movie, from 2008, is set almost entirely inside a prison cell, save from one exceptionally liberating moment when the dying Sands remembers a scene from his youth, running as a teenager through a woodland he startles a murder of crows. It’s a beautiful window into the memory of the outside world.

How has your work evolved would you say?

I feel indebted to all artists whose works have influenced my practice, artists from all generations, past and present. Art to me is an evolving language – it is this organic visual rhetoric that fascinates and compels me to keep painting.

Need to Know: Elizabeth Magill’s exhibition “Her Nature” continues until 10 October at Kerlin Gallery; Anne’s Lane, South Anne Street, Dublin 2; www.kerlingallery.com.

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