His bow is full of strings and his cap is full of feathers – is there anything Peter Fitzpatrick can’t do? His entry in Who’s Who Dundalk will have to be updated next year to add master painter to businessman, gun club lobbyist, TD for Dundalk, GAA manager, hardworker, trustworthy person and talented orator. Ahead of his inaugural exhibition at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the artist also known as ‘Fitzer’ popped by to chat to Faa Side Aats Correspondent Michael Ronseal about painting.
People do think so they do, that when I’m in the Dáil (gym) my brain is only counting reps. But Michael, they’d be wrong so they would. My brain is the most honest, hard-working and trustworthy brain in the Dáil. Bar none.
There’s all sorts floating round in there [taps head] at any one time so there is Michael. So I’ve pie-charted the brain into different sections; Dundalk, GAA, gun clubs and painting. Oh and Fine Gael obviously. I’m a true blue so I am Michael.
But you and I both know Michael that the brain is just like any other muscle in the body – it can snap if you overwork it. Muscles need relaxing as well as vigorous stimulating.
That’s why I got into the painting – it’s a mental treat, like giving the brain some Coke.
I used to go around painting houses like I send text messages – sometimes solicited, sometimes not. My main goal back then Michael was champships and winning an All-Ireland with Louth so it was Michael. The house painting was for the love of it.
I’d paint the whole house white so I would. If I was in a bad mood I’d get the black paint out so I would Michael. I did that for years and years. Got great pleasure out of it so I did. I’d aim to get a whole house done in a day. At my peak I was getting a house done while the family was at mass.
I felt I wasn’t expressing myself enough so I started using the primary colours around 1997 I think it was…Haughhaughho Michael! Dundalk and Cooley didn’t know what hit dum!
But I knew I’d gone too far when I painted a house the same colour as a field.
Mrs. O’Hanlon complained to the po-stoffice cos they kep missing her house so she got no bills for months and months. We settled. I ended up putting stripes on it. You can’t miss it now so you can’t.
Looking back on that period I guess I was just trying to emulate the great Masters like Dulux, Fleetwood and Crown. One of my constituents there now tole me he [Crown] was actually a King. He coulda hadn his servants painting de things for him but he didn’t, he rolldided up his sleeves and did it himself. I can identify with that. Anyone who knows me Michael, knows I’m a very hardworking and trustworthy individual.
My favourite style of painting? Putting on a good undercoat on an outside wall. It’s like politics – about 99.99% of the work I do do Michael is done out of sight of the public eye so it is. Nobody sees it – they only see the top coat and by that I mean me speaking in the Dáil. It’s like that German cat in that box. Nobody really knows how or if it got there or if it’s actually in the Dáil at all. Or if there is a Dáil even.
Truth be told I find the house painting more difficult so I do. You see, a canvas is a 2-D object whereas houses are normally in 3-D so they are.
I took Seamus Kirk’s advice and started painting on the canvass. He dealt with the stress of being Lord of Dundalk by painting all kinds of sheep; pure Cooley white, durty Drawda grey, sheep with blue tags, sheep with red tags, dead, violated sheep on a beach…you name it, Seamus painted it.
He said to me he said ‘Fitzer, I knew it was time to quit politics when I started painting black sheep. It made me feel uncomfortable. I’ve a brother what’s a black sheep… And sure Declan is old enough now to take over the famly business.’ I thought it was just bants but a family friend showed me photos; very dark stuff altogether, Jesus Mary and holy Joseph…
I don’t speak to Gerry Adams. He’s a bad man. He’s never in Dundalk or in the parts of the Dáil (gym) I do be in but I know he paints to stop the nightmares or the other way around I forget which. I’ve only seen one of his paintings so I have, it was of a ship Michael, with some Libyan lads unloading crates on a beach in the moonlight. It was pretty realistic so it was, almost like a photo.
I’m told I’ve developed a more abstract style since I got into politics and maybe they’re right.
I started doing self-portraits only last year. I do see a lot of paintings of the Taoisigh in the Dáil lobby and they’re very boring so they are so I thought, ‘Sure amn’t I good at the painting and when I’m Taoiseach I’d rather me own work representing me.’
I trust nobody that hasn’t played GAA. I seen sportsmen be artistic; Stefan White was like Picaster. But I never seen an artist being sportistic.
It’s vewy very haad painting yourself and getting the hands right. It’s a skill sitting so still. You have to be very quick so you do or you’ll capture your hands with the brush in them.
The I, Fitzer – Paintings from the Peninsula exhibition is running concurrently in The Highlanes Gallery and the Ufizzi until May.