Margo Banks

Margo Banks

Margo was born in 1951. She left Ireland to live in Spain when she was 17, married a Spanish gypsy and had three sons with him. Margo made her living painting at this time. Sadly after 14 years, for various reasons, she came back to Ireland with her three souvenirs and had to turn around and make a living. She worked as an interpreter amongst other things, and enrolled in the North Strand Technical School for night classes in Pottery.

On discovering the clay, she moved on to sculpture and worked in this medium for the next 14 years. She has 2 public commissions in sculpture. She went on to teaching modelling the figure in clay for the VEC for 2 years.  One summer about 10 years ago, when the North Strand was closed for holidays, she decided to paint a little again, and once started, has never stopped. Although she loves sculpture, she missed the colour. With her boys now grown up she has now given up full time work (she was Administrator in the United Arts Club in Dublin) and is now making her living as a painter.

Margo’s strong connection to her mother and family-place plays heavily on her work. In big and boisterous drawings, Margo tells the many stories of her mother; her childhood, her land and its rich folklore tales. Her drawings are the remembrance and the expression of both these stories and of the changes seen in the landscape of Teeromoyle in South West Kerry – her mother’s place. Banks returns here often, to sketch and walk the field. It is a sort of time-machine for her: sometimes joyous, sometimes oppressive; veined with tragedy and shadows from harsher times. Taking her sketches back to the studio, its moods infect her. She has said:

“Painting the field sometimes makes me feel snug, warm and sheltered; and other times exposed, vulnerable and turbulent.”

Accenting her ancestor’s land, its myths and traditions, Margo captures totemic animals particular to her mothers hillside. There is nothing particularly cute or sentimental about Banks’ ‘beasts of the field’. They shimmer and abound with edgy character; with an elemental, almost mythic aspect. Her signature hares, based on the Irish subspecies, Lepus timidus hibernicus, are pookas of a kind. Glowering, startled or pensive, they dance, skip, careen on their springloaded hind limbs, or simply squat, sphinx-like. Embedded in poetry and folklore, she says of these animals’ wild and mysterious presence:

“They just have this otherness about them. They share the world with us, but they don’t seem really aware of us”.  

‘Pulled by the gravitational force of memory, towards the shadow land of the past, Margo mines the rich folklore of her mother’s community and her intimate affinity with nature.’ Des Kenny, Draíocht.

“My mothers past is my past’…

The role of drawing is fundamental to my work. These drawings of crows and animals are sometimes prefaces to paintings, and sometimes a relaxation from them. They are works in their own right.

They are witnesses to the changes in the landscape of Teeromoyle in South West Kerry – my mother’s place.

My mother died quite young but I was reared on her stories about her childhood in the mountains, so family and a sense of place haunts my work. My mother’s past is my past. Her parent’s house is long gone but the field where the house was remains unchanged and I have painted this field many times.

Painting the field sometimes makes me feel snug, warm and sheltered and other times exposed, vulnerable and turbulent. I remove layers of earth while adding layers of paint

This is my subject matter, not the meaning of my paintings

Art Curriculum Vitae

Painting/Drawing

Solo Exhibitions

  • Origin Gallery Dublin, May 2015
  • United Arts Club Dublin, September 2014
  • Draiocht Arts Centre Dublin, May-July 2014
  • Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, June 2013
  • Origin Gallery Dublin, March 2012
  • Dungarvan Arts Centre Co Waterford, February 2012
  • United Arts Club Dublin, April 2011
  • Henry Gilmore Gallery Belfast, November 2010
  • Blue Leaf Gallery Dublin, September 2010
  • United Arts Club Dublin, April 2009
  • Blue Leaf Gallery Dublin, April 2008
  • Cill Rialaig Art Centre, April 2007
  • Blue Leaf Gallery Dublin, May 2005
  • Blue Leaf Gallery Dublin, September 2002

Joint Exhibitions

  • Russell Gallery Burren, August 2016
  • Exhibition of Drawings together with Printmaker Renate Braun at The United Arts Club, September 2006
  • United Arts Club – 4 Women Show, March 2007
  • “Three Women” Show United Arts Club, 2002

Group Exhibitions – Painting

  • Blue Leaf Gallery, 2001 – 2011
  • United Arts Club, 2001 – 2016
  • Selected Annual Exhibition Greenlane Gallery Dingle, 2005 – 2016
  • Selected Group Exhibition on White Tailed Eagle – Muckross Gallery Killarney, 2008
  • Group Summer Show Backstage Theatre Longford, 2002
  • Group Show Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, 2002
  • Oireachtas Annual Exhibition, 2002 – Open Submission
  • Eigse Carlow, 2003 – Open Submission

Sculpture/Painting

Selected Annual Group Exhibitions

  • Invited Artist, RHA Annual Exhibition, 2014
  • Amsterdam Art Fair, 2013
  • Royal Ulster Academy of Art Open Submission, 2005 – 2008
  • RHA Annual Group Exhibition, 1987 – 1991 (sculpture)
  • Sligo Iontas Annual Exhibition, 1989 – 1992
  • Women Artists Exhibition Malton Gallery St Stephens Green, 1990
  • Claremorris Annual Exhibition, 1991
  • Dundalk Rotary Club Annual Exhibition, 1992, 1993
  • Royal Ulster Academy of Art Annual Exhibition, 1993 (sculpture)

Public Commissions

  • Sculpture – Defender’s Row Plaque – Dundalk
  • Sculpture – Morrigan’s Ravens – Dundalk

Work Purchased by Public Bodies

  • Night Hare – The Office of Public Works, 2012
  • An Undulating Silence – The Office of Public Works, 2005
  • Seguiría – The Office of Public Works, 2005
  • Field – Enterprise Ireland, 2005

Residencies/Fellowships

  • Fellowship at Ballinglen Arts Foundation, Co Mayo, 2015, 2016
  • Cill Rialaig Art Centre, Co Kerry, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014
  • Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Co Monaghan, 2001 – 2006, 2011, 2014
  • Oberpfalzer Kunstlerhaus, Schwandorf, Germany, 2009

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