“Do what you want, art makes you happy so do it; don’t think twice and don’t worry about making money, go for it,” Rosie McGinn’s parents used to tell her. Growing up in Maidstone, Rosie was guided by her parents who, having met at Newcastle University during their art degrees, understood the industry. As such, she left school a year early with her A-Levels and went straight into her foundation at UCA Maidstone, flipping eggs in BHS cafe, going out with friends and, most importantly, working hard in the studio as much as she could. “And that just carried on,” she tells It’s Nice That, “always working, always having a good time, always in the studio.”
Drawn mostly to the freedom that being an artist provides, Rosie likes to keep her options open; one day, she might wake up and have the desire to create a music video or film scripts. She never limits herself to one specific medium. Her mixed-media works span sculpture, video and installation, where large-scale, hand-sewn inflatables of grandmas, Gazza the footballer, Red Stripe and DJ decks are arranged in a surrealist foray of British culture. On the topic of how he landed on this particular aesthetic, she recalls the moment when someone saw a tap dancer sculpture that she worked on recently. “They said it reminded him of the Pierce Brosnan animation in the Golden Eye game, where it looks like his face is wrapped around a square,” says Rosie. “So I guess the inflatables and stuffed human sculptures have this ‘real but not real’ aesthetic. There’s usually some sort of movement going on, humour and the concepts often gravitate towards [British] sport and leisure.”
Permeating her works are the small and attentive moments of everyday life, like the people she meets, their stories, watching television, sitting on the bus, going to the pub. Most recently, she’s found inspiration from a bout of nostalgia. During lockdown, Rosie was with her family and the longing for past times eroded into her feeling like a teenager again. Traversing back through time – something that comes naturally when a mid-twenties adult tends to move back home – Rosie began to work on a project, launched initially as she had created a watercolour for her sister’s birthday. “For some reason the first CD I got bought was Ronan by Ronan Keating in 2000,” she tells us. “Me and my sister got in a fight and she wrote, ‘I hate you’, on Ronan’s forehead in felt tip and then later, when we made up, she wrote ‘I love you’ on his forehead on the back.” In response, Rosie created a painting of these etchings and soon enough this evolve into a larger series, one that’s seen her look back at a whole host of past CDs in her parents house.
Called Cee Deez, the collection is part of a group exhibition called Lacuna, currently on show in Newcastle with Slugtown – a series of online exhibitions hosted by Arcade to support non-profit, charitable and artist run spaces in their community. Initially, Rosie hadn’t planned on showing anyone these works but we’re utterly thankful that she did. Any young British teenager will relate to most, if not all, CDs presented in this series, and Rosie had picked out the ones that she’d felt closest to during her own childhood. “Harking back to a less self-conscious time when you just listened to music without worrying about being judged for what song was playing,” she adds. “It was funny going back to watercolours as well, because I haven’t painted since I was a teenager – the two collided, past and present.” The result is very much contrasting to her usual works of video and inflatable sculptures, but it’s a welcomed turn for the artist and one that she marks as more “simple” and “intimate” in its approach.
When tasked to pick out her favourite – a tricky task to say the least – this sends her back on a nostalgic trip to her younger years. “The Arctic Monkeys one is the first album I bought myself from HMV, dad used to always play us Dizzee Rascal, Goldie Lookin Chain and The Streets in the car and mum would always have Ms Dynamite and Tracy Chapman playing on repeat in the kitchen,” she says. “The memory of Elephunk always makes me smile because I remember being in my room and going through Where is the Love, pausing it every ten seconds on the pink CD player to write down the lyrics, which were all wrong – I’d write down what I heard so some of them were just made up words. Then, after I’d finished the song, I took the artwork out of the CD case and realised that all the lyrics were all written inside.” Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, and Rosie’s Cee Deez is a blissful return to these simpler times.
Lacuna is on show at Arcade for 21 days until 20 July, before the next exhibition takes place. 25% of all sales will be donate dot The Angelou Centre, a charity in the West End of Newcastle-upon-Tyne – providing training, personal development, counselling and legal advice for Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee women.
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.