‘I think since Covid people are much more appreciative of art’

Shoppers in Lisburn might have spotted a slightly different unit in the Bow Street Mall recently.

Artist Aoibhin Maguire. Pic by Norman Briggs, rnbphotographyni
Artist Aoibhin Maguire. Pic by Norman Briggs, rnbphotographyni

Nestled amongst the popular stores is a brand new art gallery which has been opened by young artist Aoibhin Maguire

The former Rathmore Grammar School student, who is currently studying for her Masters with the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, jumped at the opportunity to open the gallery when she was offered the space by the Mall during the lockdown.

Since she was a child, Aoibhin has always had a passion for art and there was never any doubt in her mind that she would make a career out of that passion.

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“For as long as I can remember art was always my favourite subject,” explained Aoibhin. “Even when I wasn’t in school I did a lot of art with my mum.

“My mum was always very arty and I remember when I was very young she would do a lot of arts and crafts with my brother and I on the kitchen floor.”

After studying art at GSCE and A Level, Aoibhin was in no doubt that she would continue to study at university.

She left home and went to Lancaster University to study Fine Arts. In her second year, she had the fantastic opportunity to study in Carolina in the United States.

“It was absolutely amazing,” said Aoibhin. “I did a lot of exhibitions off campus around the city in Charlotte and I was named Artist of the Month in the Charlotte Art League.”

Whilst at University, Aoibhin also organised exhibitions in Liverpool and across the north of England.

After graduating Aoibhin intended to move to London to complete her Masters at the Royal College of Art. However, the Covid pandemic struck and plans for the move were put on hold.

“My first year was all done online so I couldn’t justify moving to London,” Aoibhin continued.

Whilst at first this seemed like a missed opportunity and certainly not what she had in mind for her first year at the RCA, luck was on her side when she applied to make use of the space being offered at the Bow Street Mall.

“It wasn’t the plan at all but it has turned out to be amazing,” admitted Aoibhin. “It is a nice positive to come from Covid.”

Taking over the empty unit, she was determined to make the place as colourful and as inviting as possible, encouraging people who may not otherwise feel comfortable in an art gallery to come in and explore her work.

“I wanted the space to be bright, approachable and inviting,” she continued. “Some galleries can be quite intimidating if you’re not in the art world. I did it up in a very bright way. I didn’t want it to be a typical white gallery.”

Talking about her art work, Aoibhin explained: “To sum up my art, it is everything contemporary and modern. I think it has changed a lot since Covid, it has really influenced me. I guess I use it as a form of escapism.

“My paintings explore millennial culture and trends, often through the repetition of the color pink, in particular ‘millennial pink’. I explore the contradictions and intricacies of modern capitalist culture; oversaturation of opportunities paralleled with loneliness and feelings of being completely lost. Interested in current popular aesthetics such as pink and plants I explore ‘Instagramable’ trends.

“My practice is material focused and experimental and I like to push the boundaries of my materials, often mixing traditional painterly materials with industrial and everyday ones. Throughout my works, I use a lot of pinks and glitters, playing with traditional feminine aesthetic in non-traditional ways.”

Aoibhin plans to have her gallery open at the Bow Street Mall throughout the summer and is hoping lots of people will come in to see her work and have a chat.

“I have been really happy with the response,” she continued.

“I was a bit unsure as it wasn’t in an art district but I think since Covid people are so much more appreciative of art because they have been so removed from it for such a long time.

“After Covid I really want to provide a space where people can come and appreciate art. I want to make it accessible to everyone.”

Find out more about Aoibhin’s work and the gallery opening times on Instagram @artist_aoibhin.