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Award-winning Armagh artist bringing light after Covid with solo exhibition of paintings

The paintings are of local scenes as well as Donegal’s coastal area of Gaoth Dobhair

Frances McKenna with some of her paintings that will feature in the exhibition

An Armagh artist who wants to “uplift” people from the darkness of the Covid-19 pandemic is holding her first solo exhibition in the city since 2008.

Frances McKenna, whose paintings are characterised by their brightness and colour, is hoping that both the subject matter and the vibrancy of the works will bring some much-needed light relief in what has been a dark time.

Her upcoming exhibition, entitled Perceptions, is being held in the The Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre as part of the John Hewitt International Summer School.

It will feature 30 oil paintings and six limited prints, all depicting scenes that have inspired Frances over the past few years.

They are based on local scenes in places such as Armagh, Gosford, Tassagh, Navan Fort and the Mall as well as Donegal’s coastal area of Gaoth Dobhair, where Frances spent a lot of her youth at the Gaeltacht.

At present, she is working on a painting of Seagahan Dam and, like her other work, brings her own artistic interpretation to it.

“My aim is to bring the viewer colour, joy and a sense of being uplifted, especially after living through these dark days of Covid-19,” she said.

Frances said she herself had found painting the pictures a therapeutic experience which had helped her to deal with the sadness of premature baby loss.

“I know there is light in these paintings that will light up dark days for anyone viewing them,” she added.

The 50-year-old, who is mum to Muireann (11), returned to painting five years ago, having previously taken a break for a number of years to spend time with her family.

Born near Navan Fort, she graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art from the University of Ulster at
Belfast in 1994.

Throughout her career, she has achieved a number of awards including first prize in the Bass Ireland Award, and her work hangs in many offices, including the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Oifig an Taoiseach and Armagh City Council, as well as private collections.

She said “My paintings are about portraying life’s beautiful energy. I want to move my viewer, to lift their spirits. I want them to be pulled into the painting and feel uplifted.

“It is my hope that the viewer of my work can get lost in my paintings, with a sense of joy… To walk and lose oneself among the wild flowers in a vast open space of sunshine, to feel the wind in their face, listen to the sounds of the oceans, taste the sea salt in the air and the smells of Irish turf-burning fires. To live among colour of every description. A little piece of heaven on earth.”

Frances is looking forward to a big big turn-out at the exhibition from the local community.

The exhibition will run from July 26 to September 3 with an opening launch on Saturday, July 3, which can be booked for free through the theatre box office.

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