Pippi Firman has created art all his life. As a child, he played in the mud of the Horse River, creating dams and building bridges. From sticks and stones, he progressed to stone masonry. He developed his painting through his work on wagons, carriages and steam engines. In mid 2020 he launched his first exhibition in the Wexford Arts Centre. The centerpiece was a series of portraits. Twenty faces looming from the shadows. Painted in fluid black brushstrokes. A whole range of emotions were expressed. Anguish. Contentment. Indifference. Torment. One portrait showed a man’s shocked face caught in the glow of his mobile phone. Some of the faces seemed vaguely familiar: Oscar Wilde, Mussolini, Colm Tobín, Daithí Kavanagh.
Each portrait was painted with a particular emotion. Sometimes the artist would wait for hours for that emotion to surface. Pippy worked with the canvas on the floor of the exhibition space. His paint was a mix of oil pigment, linseed oil and turpentine. He painted quickly, taking ten to fifteen minutes for each piece. Mistakes were incorporated. In an early portrait, the paint was smudged by a cloth, creating a textured effect, which was used in subsequent paintings. Pippy started by depicting the eyes and the nose – what he describes as his cross – and the face emerged from there. He credits the first Covid lock down with giving him the time to produce the work. It was fitting that he could create so many characters during a time of isolation.
Deirdre McGarry edits Wexford Women Writing Undercover and was founder of the fringe poetry festival in England, Little Lights, and the Frederick Douglass Festival in Wexford. She was so moved by Pippi's paintings that she immediately sat down and wrote poems to accompany each one.
“Light Alchemy” is a unique collaborative work of original paintings of a series of portraits painted during lockdown by artist Pippi Firman and poetic responses 'channelling' conversations with the characters by the poet Deirdre McGarry.
“Light Alchemy” will be launched at the Wexford Arts Centre at 6.30pm on Thursday November 25th. Booking is required as the launch will be a cabaret setting. Meet the artist and the poet. See the pictures, hear the poems.
Light Alchemy is now available as a pre-order on www.theirishbookshop.com.
This is the tenth book from Red Books Press. It makes a brilliantly unique Christmas present. Please buy early to avoid disappointment because once they’re gone, they’re really gone!