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
A FRUGAL, NATURAL ART: “ARTE POLPA”
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