Angela Ginn graduated from Goldsmiths College, London, returning to Belfast in 1990. Her oil paintings of the Northern Irish landscape have been exhibited regularly in Ireland and Europe. She was Artist in Residence for Belfast City Hospital for three years and part of a three-year residency with Kids’ Own, in the Multimedia Maps project. Here, she tells us about the inspiration she found on Rathlin…
When did you first visit Rathlin?
In 1996, with my niece Stacey, who was around seven years old at the time. We were staying at Whitepark Bay for the week and took a day trip over.
What were your first impressions?
It felt very special to me to be crossing the sea to get there. The crew on the ferry all seemed very exotic and ‘island looking’. My niece is not at all outdoorsy and she soon wanted to leave but the trip whet my appetite to return.
Tell us about the residency on Rathlin…
I have spent the last seven summers on Rathlin, from 2001 – 2008. My residency came about because Ann Henderson and myself were working on an art project together in Sligo and she knew that I had rented an Irish Landmark Trust cottage in Randalstown every year in which to paint. When Alison and Liam McFaul restored their outback barn, beside the Camping Barn, they were open to the possibility of an artist using it as a studio. Ann invited me over to the island and introduced me to Alison, who showed me the barn. I loved it and booked it for two weeks later that summer. I stayed for five weeks that year and for two to four months in the following years.
How was the weather?
The weather varied from year to year, day to day and hour to hour! I never minded what the weather was like as I was always so happy to be there, it wasn’t important to me. Although if it was warm and sunny, of course, the island was especially wonderful. I thrived in the physical space, the beauty of the landscape, the surrounding sea and all those skies were just magical. I never ever became complacent about the pleasure of opening my door in the morning onto a field and the marvel of the expanse beyond it.
Was four months long enough? Were you glad to leave or would you like to have stayed longer?
Four months was a great length of time for me. It gave me plenty of time to paint, rest, socialise, dander about and just ‘be’. I always found it hard to go, to end my summer adventure and to say goodbye to my dear friends. My awkward departure technique is usually to take a notion in my last week and make a speedy and quiet exit. I do love my artist in residency work back over the water and, on my return to Belfast, I always enjoy getting back to work with the children and the groups again. I also always needed to earn some money again by that stage.
What was the best thing about Rathlin?
The stunning beauty of the island itself. The colours and the light. The physical space, the skies and being surrounded by the sea. I also enjoyed being part of the summer island community and spending time with friends there and attending the daily/nightly events and gatherings. I am particularly partial to a ceili and to ‘Shoeing the Donkey’ with Loughie Mc Q.
What did you miss most?
Nothing. Once I got settled in my barn, I was always loath to leave. I only ever left to attend to business or something important. Most of my friends and family became regular annual visitors and looked forward to visiting me there too.
Is there a piece of music that reminds you of Rathlin?
That has to be ‘Fear A’ Bhata’. All Teresa’s beautiful renditions – and also those of the Black family – will always take me there.