Arte Polpa – Irma Irsara

Arte Polpa – Irma Irsara
Catalogue of selected paper pulp works from 2006 – 2020

soft cover / 210 x 210 cm / 48 pg / design by Decoder

with introduction by Claire McCaslin-Brown

Some copies still available from


There is a vibrancy to the work of artist Irma Irsara (b.1961, Italy). Shades of bright red, turquoise and blue draw the eye towards the natural materials onto which pigment dyes are embedded. Remnants of pure cotton cloth and fallen bark are incorporated into bold statements of abstract colour. Stand before these images and you experience an energetic force that evokes at once curiosity and contemplation.

Irsara explores issues concerning our natural environment and the way in which we are connected to it. Her lyrical abstract compositions are formed out of found organic materials such as waste cotton fibres and storm debris that she picks up on her travels and intuitively transforms into a vibrant mix by adding pigment dyes in a sort of magical alchemical process.

Inspired in part by the works of the Italian “arte povera” movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, these organic materials are at the core of Irsara’s art and similarly make reference to the natural environment, acting as a statement against mass-market consumerism. Irsara favours the essential nature of life as those artists did through their choice of worthless materials such as bits of wood, rags and scraps of newspaper from where the actual creative process has more significance than a finished object. Irsara rejects the consumerist product in favour of a raw-edged, natural, unfinished art that evokes the real, the instinct and the ephemeral.

Colour is key to Irsara’s work, and though flat, there is a depth to these abstract works. The eye is drawn into the essence of the work and yet allowed to drift along the rough contours and unfinished edges, beckoning a sort of unpredictability, reminiscent of nature itself. In contrast to the natural brown tones of the earth, the artist calculates exactly a weight and intensity of colour by using a special technique that is akin to the process of paper making. The “arte polpa” process is a term created by the artist and refers to a technique that uses layers upon layers of cotton fibre pulp, pressed down by hand, wet on wet, using a hand mould and deckle process. The artist pushes down on the natural texture of the pulp, creating batches of similar colours to create a basic palette, and to which she occasionally adds a quantity of pure, fibre-reactive pigment dyes.  

Sunlight plays a big part in the drying process which can take three to four weeks and contributes to the alchemical process between pigment and fibre that eventually produces the strong, high-density colours. The process is characterised by its simplicity and yet strength of the material. These changes in natural forms from the innate interweaving of the fibres themselves are at the core of Irsara’s work and encourage a lyrical reflection on the essence of nature and its inherent changeability. 

“I‘m drawn to the simplicity and strength of the material, its feeling of fragility and its alchemical appeal.”   Irma Irsara

Irsara sometimes incorporates overlooked detritus into her work that has been discarded carelessly, possibly left behind through natural phenomena or social activity. Her latest abstract works examine the way abandoned plastics retain their strength of colour indefinitely when compared with the organic nature of pure pigment colours and she has shifted her focus to issues concerning micro pollution and climate change. Time-lapse digital video work is another medium used by the artist to illustrate the way nature changes and amplifies the immersive experience that includes colour, abstraction, video and sound when viewing Irsara’s works. The abstraction of texture, colour and form challenges the viewer to share in the conveyance of an experience, an invitation to contemplate, to really observe nature and to see beyond with the inner eye, the conversation that is art.

Claire McCaslin-Brown, 22 May 2022

Art Adviser

Paper Pulp Process + Giveaway

Today – Thursday 11 November – I’ll be giving away a mail-art edition of 25 pieces at 12 noon on a first-come-first served basis. All I ask in return is £2 P&P to comply with Big Cartel rules.

Follow the link below to get yours.


Multiple of 25 numbered and signed on reverse

Paper pulp (cotton linters), dyes, lino printing
11(H) x 15(W) cm

Strata in Blu

Solo noi siamo il volto del nostro tempo

I’ll be doing a mail-art giveaway in 9 days time (Thursday 11 Nov, 12 noon)
An edition of 25 paper pulp/lino pieces will be made available on a first-come-first-served basis. Details of the piece below and a link nearer the time.

Multiple of 25 numbered and signed on reverse

Paper pulp (cotton linters), dyes, lino printing
11(H) x 15(W) cm

The furrows, created by stripping away embedded hollow paper strips from the pulp layers, depict water level marks and indicators of wider changes. I included the intermittent imprint of knots in the paper to denote the interruption to the natural flow of water.

New Selling Platform

My new selling platform at Big Cartel is now live and includes a selection of fibre art pulpworks, etchings and digital prints. Click on the link to browse the artwork which will be updated on a regular basis. If you have any questions please get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.






Uni e verso (1991) / 2 colour etching / aquatint, open bite, aqua-forte /
A/P4 (edition of 20) / Somerset White Texture 300gsm / H 35 cm x W 28 cm

Arrestarsi ai raggi notturni (2006) /cotton fibre, pigment dyes / H 31 x W 27 cm

Halse for Hazel (2015) / A1 / limited edition digital print / edition of 15 / Epson archival inks on Somerset Velvet 300gsm paper

PULPS – Lauderdale House

Esperienze di colore 110 x 89cm 2009
Esperienze di colore (2009) paper pulp, pigment dyes 110 x 89cm

Lauderdale House (Ground Floor Gallery)
Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, N6 5HG London, United Kingdom

Exhibition runs from:
Wednesday 27 May – Sunday 21 June 2015
(not Sunday 7 June)

Opening hours:
Wed to Fri: 11am to 4pm Sun: 10am to 5pm

Irma Irsara’s gift for emotional expression through her artworks has long been reflected in all her artistic creations whether they be pulp paper artworks, artist books, print, video or installations.
The work on show represents a selection of paper pulp works from the last 15 years, as well as a small preview of her new series of photographic prints taken during the 2013 experimental ice and light installation in the ice wells of the London Canal Museum.
The achival digital prints with their natural textures, strong electric colours, organic shapes and powerful imagery sit well beside her pulp paper artworks and display a continuity of Irma’s creative interests albeit in a different medium. The ability to work across mediums when producing artworks while retaining a strong, identifiable visual signature is a hallmark of Irma’s creative output.

– A Phelan

Event page:

Lo Spacco 88 x 63 cm 2008Lontano Ricordo di un Immagine 75 x 59 cm 2006Il fiordaliso 110 x 84 cm 2014

Pictures left to right:
Lo Spacco (2008) paper pulp, pigment dyes, bark 88 x 63 cm
Il fiordaliso (2014) paper pulp, pigment dyes, organic material 110 x 84 cm
Lontano ricordo di un immagine (2006) paper pulp, pigment dyes 75 x 59 cm




watermark 06Rising water levels – evident even along the local London canals – is the theme of a series of paper pulp works, a selection of which I’m showing at the London Canal Museum. As well as signifying the water line, the title refers to the ‘watermark’ effect incorporated in each of the paper pulp works, achieved by varying the thickness of the fibre during the making process.

An installation of melting and dripping ice is also on show, where hanging paper becomes tinted through capillary action. The short video work, Sciogliere e ritrovare, can be seen on the ground floor.

I’ll be demonstrating techniques and running a paper-making workshop using edible plants on Sunday 28 July, 11:00 to 16:00 with the chance to make your own paper.

The exhibition continues until 31st July.

watermark 07

In queste due insallazioni  l’arte incontra la scienza.

Watermark 7 - 31 x 54 cm 2013watermark 05

I marchi d’acqua alta erano molto piu evidenti nel inverno 2012/2013 e camminando lungo il canale mi hanno portato a fare lavori su marchi nella carta che possono essere intesi in due modi – I marchi come luce e i marchi come livelli di misure nell’acqua. Presto la carta diventera privilegio.

Oltre sono esposti due altre opere, un’installazione, Acqua, colore e ghiaccio (azioni capillari) e un video installazione dove le  poesie di Frances Presley si intrecciano con il ghiaccio (climate change).

watermark 04