Interview with artist Adrian Margey, March 9th, 2019

By Conor O’Neill

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday saw Portrush based artist Adrian Margey stage a major exhibition and sale of his work at Belfast’s Malone Lodge Hotel. A few weeks earlier a picture of Queen’s University caught my eye on Facebook. The artist was unknown to me, but I quickly put a reminder on my phone and went along on the Saturday.


Just out of sheer hope and being an eternal opportunist, I brought my trusty Dictaphone with me. Adrian was at hand and thankfully granted CultureCrush NI an interview. Here’s what he had to say about his art, influences and plans for the future

I began with the usual name, rank and number?

“I’m based in Portrush, where I have a studio and gallery space which I share with my wife and fellow artist Evana Bjourson. I’m 34-years-old.”

adrian margey profile

Where did you study art?

“After school I didn’t do any formal artist training. I went off to university and studied something completely different.”

castle in hills

Now that was a shock to the system. Most, if not all people I’ve known who’ve studied art, stuck at it after qualifying with hopes of ‘being discovered’ and then worn down joined the dreaded rat-race.

But I assume you always had an interest in the visual arts?

“Absolutely. From early childhood I’ve always been drawing, sketching and working with paint.”

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And all the work at this exhibition seems to be oil on canvas?

“No, it’s acrylic actually. They’re all acrylic on canvas. You get a real vibrancy of colour with acrylics. They dry more quickly than oil which is very useful for building up textures and layers.”

There seems to be a lot of landscape and cityscapes in this exhibition, there are one or two figurative pieces also, but what draws you to landscapes and cityscapes?

“Well, I grew up near Kilrea so my childhood was spent surrounded by the open countryside. It was very natural for me to draw from that environment and start painting rural scenes and the local landscapes I grew up with. Then I spent 10 years in Belfast as a student. The city gets under your skin and that has certainly informed my interest in cityscapes.”

Did you go to Queen’s {the picture that first raised my interest} which is arguably one of the most eye-catching pieces of work in the exhibition?

“Yes, I did my PHD at Queen’s and my undergrad at Jordanstown.”

What’s your working method? I know some artists who paint in flourishes, other that spend six months on what seems to be a basic painting.

“First of all there’s a trigger. I see something I want to paint. I photograph it to record a composition, I then bring the photographs back to the studio and do a couple of loose sketches and take it from there.

“With the Queen’s Recollection for example, the red brick is the main colour component and is contrasted with the white sky. ”

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When you have the brief sketches and have an idea, is it fixed or do you sometimes work on impulse?

“I usually have a vision of how I want the finished piece to look from the outset. However I’m experimenting with different techniques all the time and I’m very appreciative of happy accidents when they occur.”

How many paintings are on exhibition here today?

“62. There’s also a collection in the studio.”

Where in Portrush is your studio/gallery situated?

The gallery is called Adrian Margey Art. It’s at 99 Mark Street Portrush, just at the junction of Mark Street and the Main Street.”

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I don’t want to pry into your financial situation… Adrian laughs and adds: “Oh no, you really don’t!”

I continue, is this your fulltime profession?

“Yes, it is now. I gave up my day job in corporate communications 10 years ago.”

house with bikes

Do you get up every day with a certain drive and think, ‘I’ve got to do something today?’”

“Absolutely. Thankfully it’s there, it hasn’t gone away. There’s a creative drive, an impulse. Setting a date for an exhibition is a great motivator because you know you have to create a body of work within a certain time frame.”

What about self-promotion? I, as I’m sure many people, first saw your work on Facebook.

“Social media has really transformed how artists connect with their audience. In some cases it has facilitated the move away from the conventional artist / gallerist relationship to a new way of working where the artist can self-represent without the intervention of a gatekeeper. This is not unique to the visual arts of course, there are many examples in the worlds of music and literature.”

irish dancers

I’m not saying it’s Siberia, but Portrush is kind of out of the way. Belfast is arguably the cultural hub of Northern Ireland. Is there a painters gathering, or some sort of forum in the North West?

“There may well be but I’m not part of it. My wife is also an artist and we work together in the studio so we’ve got our own little team going on and bounce ideas off each other. We live very close to Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart which is an excellent facility. It hosts a range of workshops and arts events including a varied programme of exhibitions. The Causeway Enterprise Agency, have taken over a building in Bushmills, it’s called the Designerie and it offers a forum for artists, designers and makers to showcase their work. It’s certainly a great idea and a creative hub.”

What sort of reaction has this exhibition had?

“There was a great crowd in at the opening last night. The work seemed to be well received and thankfully sales were excellent. Many visitors commented on the variety of work on show – they seemed intrigued by the fact that I paint in a number of different styles.”

Who would be your main influences?

“I suppose I’m best known for my colourful work, I would be known as a colourist. I’m influenced by the Fauve artists. The Fauves (loosely translated as the wild beasts) were French artists. I also spent some time in Ecuador, South America and was quite influenced by the work of the indigenous artists. Their work chimed with what I was doing – experimenting with colour and simplifying form.”

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Is there a common theme to the exhibition?

“Well, if you look around the vast majority of the paintings are of Northern Ireland. I look at landscapes, landmarks, purposeful and non-purposeful, and I also look at expressions of cultural traditions, whether that be music or dancing scenes.”


And finally, what’s after the exhibition?

“I get ready for the next show at Galgorm Resort & Spa over Easter and I also have a number of commissions to complete over the next few months. My Portrush Studio is open to the public on Saturdays this time of year. We work in the studio during the week when people can also arrange to view by appointment. During the summer we’re open all weekend, Friday Saturday and Sunday”

And now you know. Next time you’re walking down Portrush’s promenade licking on an ice cream, take a moment out and pop into Adrian Margey Art. If going by the Malone Lodge exhibition, it’ll be a feast for the senses.

The website address is:

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