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

River Net – preview and live talk

Come and join me for a preview of my current project at London Bridge Hive this September.

River Net is my new time-lapse work-in-progress which looks at the intermingling of natural and synthetic matter, our relationship with the materials we produce and their impact on the river.

In the work, I use material recovered from the Thames with a particular emphasis on plastic food netting. I’m interested in the ambiguity of something developed in part for its aesthetic appeal but which, after single use, becoming unwanted and damaging to the natural environment.

By repurposing it, I examine how much of the original, artificial beauty it retains whilst reflecting on how it might compromise the life of a river.

“What I call ‘plastic coral’ attaches itself everywhere and to everything, breaking down over time into minute pieces that remain in our waters, rivers and oceans. It finds its way inside fish, animals, insects and humans, in all eco-systems even down to the very phylum of plants”

On 22 September I’ll be presenting a lunchtime screening of a 15-minute video preview of the on-going ‘River Net’ project, followed by a Talk and Q&A. Throughout the day, the video will continue to run on a loop, and I will be available to engage and discuss with visitors. I look forward to seeing you all there.

RIVER NET Thursday 22nd Sep 2022

  • 12.30 – 1.30 Talk
  • 1.30pm – 7pm Meet the Artist – drop in

London Bridge Hive, 8 Holyrood Street, first floor, London, SE1 2EL

River Net is Supported by Team London Bridge and Totally Thames Festival.

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INTERVALS Press Release

16 May 2022

UK artist Irma Irsara presents her brand new works at Tabernacle Gallery on the
occasion of ‘Intervals’ exhibition opening in June.

Water Levels 1 (2021) – 31 x 51 cm, cotton fibre, dyes

On June 7th, Irma Irsara, contemporary Italian artist who lives and works in London, will present her latest artworks at the Tabernacle Gallery on the occasion of the summer exhibition, Intervals.

Irma will be exhibiting three of her latest projects with centrepiece of the show, Accendo la luce, nasce l’ombra (2021), a large installation work, consisting of 72 panels and created using a dedicated papermaking technique, being presented for the first time. A selection from Irsara’s recent Water Level Series relating to ecological and environmental themes and created using the same paper pulp technique will also be debuted. Finally, the artist will be showing a time-lapse digital video work, originally created for the exhibition Earth is Calling at the Crypt Gallery in 2019, part of which was also shown at the Bargehouse for Totally Thames, Foragers of the Foreshore exhibition.

Accendo la luce, nasce l’ombra (2021), is inspired by notions of loss of connectivity and nostalgia for past encounters leading to feelings of isolation and vulnerability. At the same time, it explores the shared life experiences and the sense of equality that certain phenomena create, uniting people while keeping them apart.
The shift in the perception of time as a result of the pandemic, led the artist to change her outlook: instead of working towards a precise event or end point, she found herself reimagining outcomes by revisiting the past, looking at old work and notebooks, and extracting significant words and phrases in a process of re-evaluation.
Irsara worked extensively on this work over the lockdown periods, forming a composite wall piece that consists of separate panels with embossed lettering, using letterpress printing on a book binding press. Each standalone piece becomes part of the overall installation – a wall of fragments incorporating old sayings with scraps of personal, nostalgic thought. The words are deliberately intended to have possible multiple meanings to reflect diverse responses to a common experience and evoke an imagined future.

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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.

Accenda la luce, nasce l’ombra

Loss of connectivity and nostalgia for past encounters and associations can lead to feelings of isolation and vulnerability. At the same time, shared life experiences creates a new social equality that connects us even though we’re kept apart.

The shift in the perception of time over the last year led to a change in my outlook. Instead of working towards a precise event or end point, I found myself looking backwards, reimagining outcomes by revisiting the past.

I looked at past work and notebooks, extracting significant words and phrases in a process of re-evaluation. I also worked on the project Accenda la luce, nasce l’ombra over the lockdown periods, a composite wall piece consisting of 72 sections with embossed and printed lettering using letterpress type and book binding press. Each standalone piece becomes part of the overall installation – a wall of fragments and random thoughts incorporating old sayings with scraps of personal nostalgic thought. The words are deliberately intended to have possible multiple meanings to reflect diverse responses to a common experience and to evoke an imagined future.

Hidden Femininity


The collographs features in this post, based on ethnic garments, were part of a series created for my exhibition Hidden Femininity (Filef Centre 1996). They were developed during my collaboration Automatic Cross Stitch with poet Frances Presley, which looked at the rag trade in North London (N4) run mostly by Greek and Turkish owners.

I was interested in hidden women workers, working illegally in the garment industry in North London during the early nineties. I focused on those working in the factories in and around Finsbury Park mostly run by Turkish and Greek families. In order to gain access, I worked in one of the factories for a number of weeks cutting the loose threads off the finished garments.

I would often see women who couldn’t afford childcare bringing in their babies to work and hiding them from view in their work area. I observed one woman taking secret breaks to breastfeed her child. They were also instructed to disappear if the inspectors arrived.

The women I saw were mostly Indian and Eastern European who relied on the work for their survival and whose circumstances resulted in their exploitation.

The factories have disappeared from the area due to regeneration.

Details of the artworks:
available from

Cintura (belt) 1996
Collograph using material (factory off-cuts), card with stitching, coloured tissue, rolled colour (oil).
One of three variations from the same card plate, so each one unique.

Print size: 12.5(H) x 30(W) cm
Paper size: 19(H) x 35(W) cm

Punto riso per una sposina (Rice Stitch for a Bride) 1996

One-colour embossed collograph (card plate) of a child’s knitted jumper.
AP1 Artist proof 1 of 2 variations / no edition

print size: 21(H) x 48(W) cm
paper size: 28.5(H) x 57(W) cm

Guanti per sposina (Gloves for a Bride) 1996

One-colour embossed collograph (card plate) using wedding gloves.
AP2 Artist proof 2 of 3 / no edition

print size: 31(H) x 22(W) cm
paper size: 44(H) x 27(W) cm

Irlandese con currach

Irlandese con currach
(Irish with currach) 1990

A companion piece to ‘Verso l’isola di Murano‘, ‘Irlandese con currach’ uses a precise palate of earthy colours to comment on ideas of tradition and survival linked to landscape.

Both pieces have similarities in theme but they are also preoccupied with captured light. In this piece, the fresh strong green that reflects back the light is particularly important and represents a response to an area with a unique visual identity.


Price £70 (multiple) offered as part of #artistsupportpledge initiative.

unframed price

Limited edition 2 plate etching
Aquatint, sugar-lift, aquaforte, rolled colour

2/50 – number 2 of an edition of 50

Paper: Somerset White Texture 300gsm

Print size: H 15 cm x W 15 cm
Paper size: H 25.5 cm x W 25 cm

Suggested framed dimensions:
H 31 x W 31 cm (min)

Available at:

Artist info:

I’ll be offering further work for £200 or under and will pledge to use 20% of every £1000 raised to purchase a piece myself or as a donation to one of the art charities supported by the scheme.

About the scheme:
#artistsupportpledge is an artist-led movement and network to support artists struggling financially during Covid 19 using the social media platform Instagram.
Full details: