Friday, June 10, 2011

Encounter with Famous Cork Artist

Down to Cork for the launch of the Graphic Studio Dublin Visiting Artists show in the Lavit Gallery - en route to a weekend in Schull. As we arrive a little early (around 18:00) I decide to call and see an old artist friend in St. Luke's - the eponymous Famous Cork Artist - henceforth to be entitled FCA. A phone call to Henchey's ascertains that the FCA had left the premises a little earlier so I call to his house up the road. He answers the door, a most infrequent occurrence, and greets me with enthusiasm. It's clear that he is very well lubricated. I realise that I've made a tactical blunder - my assumption that the early hour would find him lucid was mistaken. I tell him of the event in the Lavit and suggest that he joins me and my companions later. Not a chance - he will join us now. But first he insists that we have a look around his studio. He turns off whatever mess he was cooking and we repair upstairs from the decidedly funky and hard-core bohemian living room (don't ask). The studio however is immaculate, gear laid out in serried ranks (including 2 palette knives in their wrapping) and a dozen or so paintings in various stages of preparation. There has been a long hiatus since his last show but it's clear that he's painting again - albeit on a modest scale.He treats us to the usual comparison of his work with Mozart's and we nod appreciatively if not enthusiastically. There's nothing especially new except a painting of a blasted, barren vineyard, with a couple of the denuded stalks shaped like crosses - tricksy and alien to the FCA's normal style. This is for a series he's doing on The Somme.

Viewing over he joins us in the car and we head down to the Hi B - famous for it's misanthropic owner ("the grumpiest man in Cork"). We join another old friend there and settle in for a few pints before the opening. We get up to leave after a brace of Murphy's but the FCA's glass is still half-full. The old friend offers to look after him so we decamp to the Lavit. There the amiable women from the Graphic Studio are working the room. It's a very classy print show with works by Teskey, Crozier, Barbara Rae, Mary Lohan, Hughie O'Donoghue and many others. Go and see it. Following the show we have booked a table at Isaacs - including the GSD folk. The FCA is not a big eater and I hadn't included him in the booking but as luck would have it they can squeeze him in.

Things rapidly deteriorate. The FCA has always felt that an artist is entitled to behave like an absolute prick and be tolerated by the lesser mortals around him. His opening gambit is to blatantly light up one of malodorous roll ups - inviting the immediate horrified censure of the waitress. Next he decides that one of the women at the table and himself have a special affinity, the type only available to artistic sorts - like Abelard and Heloise perhaps. She is more than a little alarmed by this sudden outburst of affection and has to be rescued by various diversionary conversational gambits. Things get worse. Thwarted of his true love he begins to abuse his food. Eschewing knife and fork he begins to eat his duck, mash, and gravy with his bare hands - scooping handfuls into his gob indiscriminately - for all the world like a naughty child looking for attention. We decide it's time to go - heading to Henchey's for a nightcap. There's no room in the car for the FCA - we have to forcibly prevent him getting in beside the deeply alarmed object of his affection. A volunteer is assigned to escort him towards Henchey's and home.

We arrive in Henchey's and enjoy a restorative pint while we brace ourselves for the arrival of the FCA and escort. But he never gets over the threshold - an alert bar man spots his condition and he's consigned to the night. We are rather tainted by association and are confined to one drink. Irony of ironies, while the FCA walks off rejected into the night we sit back and admire his work hanging all around the pub - at least seven good sized pieces.