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Royal Society showcase for Cambridge painter’s Mill Road-inspired art

The Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) is showcasing the work of 40 emerging artists, including Niall MacCrann, an Anglia Ruskin University student who lives in Cambridge.

Niall MacCrann. Picture: Keith Heppell
Niall MacCrann. Picture: Keith Heppell

The artists who are part of the RBA Rising Stars exhibition in London have also been shortlisted for the RBA Rome Scholarship 2022 – a one-month residency at Sala Uno, an arts centre in the heart of Rome. Applicants were artists aged 18-35 and from all over the UK.

Much of Niall’s recent work has been inspired by Cambridge’s Mill Road. “When I moved to Cambridge I gravitated there a little bit. It was one of the livelier places in 2020 and I think it’s got a very strong community.”

Originally from Dublin, Niall lived in Manchester, London and in the US, before moving to Cambridge in September 2020. “It was a nice surprise,” he says of his selection for the Rising Stars exhibition. “I’ve had work in some exhibitions in London. There was the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition at the Mall Galleries, but that’s a much bigger exhibition.

“The really nice thing was to be selected and at the exhibition I was really quite wowed by the quality of the work. It was a great opportunity to meet other young, emerging artists.”

The submissions process involved the artists sending off five or six sample images of their work, from which one was chosen. Niall’s work that made the cut was one called The Untold.

The Untold by Niall MacCrann
The Untold by Niall MacCrann

“It’s a Mill Road-inspired piece,” he explains, “with repeated symbols of delivery drivers and reflections from café windows. At the opening event it was really nice to mix with some of the other artists and I had some really nice comments.

“I think mostly the comment thread was that people thought it was very identifiable with this moment. There’s been this quite dramatic increase in contactless food delivery and that imagery really chimes with people because that’s what they see around them. It could be something you don’t notice until it’s pointed out to you.”

Niall, who often likes to sit in some of the Mill Road cafés and paint, has only taken up painting seriously in the last few years. “I’ve done a few other things, but most recently I’ve been working as a physics researcher. That’s what I did at university originally.”

It was living in the US that encouraged Niall to pick up a paintbrush once again, as he didn’t really know anyone there and spent a lot of time by himself. “I got really back into painting in a way that I hadn’t been since school, basically,” he recalls, “and then, when I came back and it was lockdown, then it was like that times five. I had a lot of time and really got into my painting.

“Since then I’ve started doing a part-time MA at Anglia Ruskin in fine art and so it’s taking over more and more.”

Niall MacCrann. Picture: Keith Heppell
Niall MacCrann. Picture: Keith Heppell

Niall’s work will be on display in some upcoming Anglia Ruskin exhibitions – including the Sustainability Art Prize – and he hopes to showcase some of his paintings at Cambridge Contemporary Art throughout the year. He also plans to apply for more competitions like RBA Rising Stars.

View Niall’s painting The Untold – along with work by the other 39 selected artists – at the Royal OverSeas League in London. The exhibition runs until July 3 and opening hours are Monday to Friday, from 10am to 5pm.

For more on Niall, visit niallmaccrannpainting.com and instagram.com/nfmcrn/?hl=en.

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