Working in mixed media, the self-taught artist Margo Banks depicts the animal kingdom as she remembers it from her childhood in Co Kerry. Majestic hares, crows, rams and goats make up her new exhibition “Sovereign Realms” which opens tomorrow at Solomon Fine Art, Dublin 2. Banks tells us more about her artistic technique and preoccupations.
What was the starting point for “Sovereign Realms”?
When we observe wild creatures trespassing through our world, we are often taken by a sense that they enjoy an autonomy and a lucid sense of self that is beyond our appreciation. I often find myself captured by their disinterest in our world – sometimes coveting the freedom they enjoy in their own sovereign realms. It is a fascination with this otherness that inspires the works in this show.
Your love of the animal kingdom stems from childhood and your mother’s home in Co Kerry – can you tell us a little about this magical time and place?
My mother grew up on Teeromoyle Mountain in South West Kerry. She died quite young. The house where she grew up is long gone but the field remains and nobody ever claimed it. She brought me there many times when I was a child. She had a great way with words and talked about the various birds and animals that frequented this field. Often I go to Teeromoyle and walk the field and imagine her rich childhood. There are often sheep in the field now, sometimes cows, and always crows. These became the subject matter of my artwork: not the meaning.
Are the animals and birds you draw captured al fresco or from memory and also from photographs?
Some of the animals such as the sheep, I draw al fresco. I take a lot of photos of crows and hares and use them, but never for the composition of a drawing.
Crows and hares are frequent subject matter – as well as being symbolic – why are you drawn to capturing them in chalk, crayon and charcoal?
I have been observing crows all of my life. I love their cleverness, their loyalty, their family structures and of course their beauty. One of my favourite quotes is by the Rev Henry Ward Beecher, from the mid-1800’s, “If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”
As for hares, there is something special about the hare and I long ago fell under the spell of this elusive, but beautiful and contradictory animal. I have researched the superstitions and folklore about the Hare and one of my favourite sources is William Cowper (1731-1800). He wrote a beautiful poem titled “Epitaph on a Hare” the story of three hares that he had been given as an antidote to the depression he suffered. They brought him great joy.
How and where to you work?
I work at least four full days every week. I have a studio in my home in Clontarf which overlooks a large green where I can be very distracted by large groups of crows!
Need to Know: “Sovereign Realms,” by Margo Banks is at Solomon Fine Art, Balfe Street, Dublin 2 from Thursday July 11 until Saturday, August 3; www.solomonfineart.ie
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