When Mick Mulcahy, the artist from County Waterford passed through Kilkenny 17 years ago, on his way home to visit the grave of his parents, he connected with the place and after seeing a photo of an old cottage outside Dungarvan village, he decided to buy it. The auctioneer didn’t really take him seriously because of the way he was dressed and his general arty-farty appearance. After being told that a deposit of £5,000 was required to secure the property, Mick left and the auctioneer presumed he would never see him again. He didn’t know who he was dealing with.
Mick went straight down to AIB on High Street and asked the slightly apprehensive, female cashierfor £5,000 in pennies and after some “negotiating” was told to come back, two days later, when the money would be ready. He did and brought his brand new wheelbarrow with him. He wheeled the money into the auctioneer who was both delighted and stunned at the same time.
Mick Mulcahy has had several reincarnations - he is a free spirit and while his partner, Vera Whelan hasn’t tried to tame him or to straightjacket him, she has harnessed his energy without adversely affecting the wildness that makes him what he is - Mick Mulcahy.
He is fundamentally a sensitive, restless human being who craves perfection and when it isn’t there, tends to go a bit cracked.
His work has once again found its way back into our hearts. The new paintings are warm, vibrant and hopeful. His art is the reflection of his psyche, and while he is at times a tormented soul, his work, always slightly sexual is haunting, engaging, sometimes slightly disturbing and I think that he intentionally likes to shock us, in the same way as another brilliant mind, Nevin Lahart, the Kilkenny city artist based in Dublin. In terms of persona, Mick is a mixture of Russell Brand and Michael D Higgins.
Asked about his outlandish behaviour, he doesn’t agree that he intentionally shocks people but more that people need to be stirred up from their middle of the road mediocrity. “Whether that requires shock treatment or not has to be seen,” he adds, raising those mad-looking eyebrows, as Vera sits next to him fearing what next will come out of his mouth. Back to his new paintings: “They are waaarrrm, like sex in the hot summer, warm and sweaty.”
This warm period seems to have come while with Vera. Whether it started before they hooked up after knowing each other for a while is not clear. She is the catalyst. The manner of their first meeting has to be told here. Vera, a renowned stained glass artist who worked in Stoneyford for a year with the Sheridans was at one of Mick’s exhibition openings in her native Wexford. She was sitting on the window-sill and said to her friend that she was disappointed with the works on view because there was no colour and that they were all black line drawings.
Unknown to her, curious eared Mick was sitting next to her and what followed was a debate on art and that laid the foundation for a relationship that works. Mick Mulcahy is almost 61 years of age and is still a great showman but ultimately he is one of our most cherished artists, with boundless energy and great powers of observation and behaviour. He is also a member of Aosdana.
Mick’s works will be on display during the Kilkenny Arts Festival, from August 9 to 18 in the Lemon Grass restaurant, John’s Bridge. Don’t miss it.