Negative Space is an art collective founded by Rachel Macmanus and Robert Downey in 2002, now solely operated by Rachel. Negative Space currently paints murals, and electrical and traffic boxes around Ennis, in association with Clare County Council and Clare Arts Office. Here are some of what was painted so far.
One the first boxes managed by Clare County Council that we painted is our Garda Box. It’s opposite the Garda Station in Ennis so obviously… Also I owe the Garda one, from way back. In 2019 I made a performance called Night Crawl, when I crawled through Ennis town on a busy Saturday night. I had emailed the Garda station to tell them what I was doing, being the responsible mother citizen that I am. They never replied but on the night a squad car turned up and drive alongside me silently, all the way. Given the physical exchanges that took place and nearly took place I often wonder to what degree things would have occurred had there not been a squad car silently driving alongside up the street. So this was a little thank you from me also. I hope they like it. Since then we have completed the Tree Of Life, located on the side of Vegunz Shop in merchants Square, Ennis. This is a nice spot where people congregate for coffee etc. The tree has a number of threatened Irish animal and insect species in it including the Curlew, the Irish honey bee, the red squirrel, the basking shark, the dragonfly and the monarch butterfly. The tree itself is inspired by the Celtic tree of life, a traditional Irish Celtic symbol.
Then we did the two horses on the old doors under Bindon Street Carpark, Ennis. When we were walking around with Tommy Scott from the council he explained thee doors used to lead under the street directly to the cellars of the 3 story Georgian houses across the road. The carpark had originally been where horses and carriages were kept, by the well off owners of the houses, who would then pass through the doors ad go under the street to access their houses. Rather than going up and crossing the road. I thought his sounded a bit lazy then I remembered the Irish weather.. probably quite a practical option in hindsight.
As I finished these Robert had started on the Maid of Erin electrical box, which he painted a contemporary version of the Maid of Erin onto. If you stand in front of the painting you can see the statue of the Maid of Erin above the roundabout behind.
While he was painting this I did the club bridge electrical traffic box. I was inspired by the secondary school pupils who would stream past every lunchtime into Ennis to get food/ out of school for a bit. So I painted a girl on one side, looking kind of angry, called ‘Don’t tell me to Smile.’ She is obviously in uniform and holds a picture of a smiley in one hand of her folded arms. I painted both figures in monotone so as to move away from specific ethnicities. I described it on the instagram page as ‘This piece is for all the teenage girls out there who are inheriting a broken planet and do not appreciate adults repeatedly telling them to cheer up’. On the other side is a piece called ‘Not as tough as I act’. Description: ‘Despite social progress it’s still not easy to be in any way different in a crowd, and admitting to vulnerability is generally still seen as weak and weird. This piece was meant for all the teenage boys out there who are trying to fit in and get by. Hang in there lads.’ On the side of the box, which faces out directly onto traffic, I painted our logo, a smiley face as a reference to the girls painting, and the fluffy soft toy duck that the boy has under his arm again as a reference to his side. This was to increase the appeal spectrum of the box, and to draw attention to it via the bright colours.
Most recently we completed the two large pump boxes located in the Island Carpark, Cloughleigh, Ennis. These are right next to the Rover Fergus so we painted on local wildlife, a heron and a duck , and used a colour palette with similarities to the locality. These two species of birds can be seen around the river on a regular basis.
Negative Space is now comprised of myself. The largest work Negative Space has painted yet, the pump house box located in De Valera Park, Ennis was completed in January 2023. The box is 210 inches high x 470inches long x 135inches depth. The image is wrapped around and comprises of two scenes from the life of Tom Steele, (1788–1848), an engineer and political activist from Ennis.
In May 2023 A new piece was completed on the Lifford Road box which had to be replaced- now featuring a Bean Garda. Also a tribute to the Ennis Fore Service was painted on a box located on the corner of the Kilrish Road. More work coming soon.
The list of murals and sites so far:
Garda: Lifford Road Electrical box located at traffic light crossing.
Paddy The Pigeon: Lifford Road, Next to Perrills Furniture Shop
Tree of Life: Located on side of Vegunz Shop, Merchants Square.
Horses: Located on the wooden doors on underside of wall, Co Council Carp park Bindon Street
Maid of Erin. Electrical box located in the park beside the Maid Of Erin Roundabout.
Don’t tell me to smile/Not as tough as I act. Electrical box located on Club Bridge on Harmony Row.
Local Wildlife. Electrical boxes located in Island Car Park, Cloughleigh, Ennis
Tom Steele. Pumphouse Box located in De Valera Park, Ennis
Fire Service Tribute. Corner of Kilrush Road and Clonroad
Art is Hope. glór carpark, Ennis causeway link road.
Ghosts and Flowers. Old Creamery Road, Tulla.
Catalogue Collage, Abbey St Carpark, Ennis
Ennis Tidy Towns, Old Friary Carpark, Ennis
This is a link to the Negative Space profile with Clare Arts Office