Kim McCafferty relishing the absurd.

A portrait of the artist

PROCESS First in a bank of artist profiles completed

Three of Cavan’s finest contemporary artists have been beautifully captured in a series of short films.

Visual artist Paul Galligan, performer Kim McCafferty, and author Shane Connaughton are the first to have come under the appreciative gaze of filmmaker Ray Fitzsimons.

Each piece is really a vignette of the artist, lasting between two to four satisfying minutes and delving into why they practice their chosen artform.

Paul Galligan was the starting point for what Ray hopes will be an ongoing series.

“I knew from conversations with Paul, how deep he is, in the way that he thinks about art and the process. And so I wanted to just sit down and record him talking for about an hour and then just extract the bits which I think capture his essence.”

The subjects are arrestingly open about their approach: “If you get to talk to anybody over the course of an hour and you ask them the right questions, they’re going to reveal profound things about themselves. But us being Irish, and being humble, as soon as you say something profound we nearly retract it, or say something self-deprecating directly after it.

“In the editing process you can take all of those pieces out and just leave the profound statement and connect it to the other ones made over the course of an hour.”

While Ray conducted the interviews in person, his questions are absent from the final cut.

“I wanted to focus on just the key things that people say and then with clever editing put it together in one narrative arc. I think having another voice in there would take away from it. I didn’t want to complicate it, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible and for it to just be about the message.”


That undivided focus is visually emphasised with the artist gazing straight into the camera to conclude the piece, a face-to-lens full stop.

“I like at the end, looking directly into the artist’s eye or just the candid nature of them standing and looking back at the camera, because I really do appreciate the artist being open with me. It’s a privileged position to be given – to listen to an artist talk about their process.”

Ray was happy with how this first profile turned out, which gave him confidence that it would be worth pursuing as a project.

“This is another key thing - that he was delighted with it,” says Ray of Paul Galligan. “He said to me that he’s never been able to explain himself as an artist and that it hit the nail on the head as far as he was concerned.”

Buoyed by the results, and having established an effective format, he approached Cavan Arts Office about profiling others. Agreeing, Cavan arts officer Catriona O’Reilly drew up a list of potential subjects. The films on Kim and Shane followed.

In the opening film, Paul paints a Cavan townscape, which brings a great visual dimension to the profile piece. Meanwhile Ray had a store of fabulous footage of Kim performing a slapstick routine for a mesmerised open-air audience at a sun-drenched Cavan Arts Festival. A trickier visual assignment is to do justice to the work of a writer. Maybe that’s why of his three films Ray is most pleased with is his Shane Connaughton profile. For this film, he breached his own self-imposed three minute time limit.

“There was a lot more content that I just couldn’t leave on the cutting room floor, so it’s a bit longer,” Ray admits. “He talked about people, and stories. And the power of these stories, why they’re so important and not letting the old stories die.

“I got him to bring out a bunch of old photographs of his family and various artefacts that he looks through and it fits together really well.”

Covid has obviously hindered Ray’s interview schedule as he admits to not having as many done as he had hoped. However, he is eager to “make it a continuing project into the future, to build a bank of profiles on the arts office website as a continually growing reference point for anybody looking for artists, or curious about artists in the area”.


Therefore Ray was mindful of the profiles’ shelflives.

“Instead of asking them what they’re currently working on - I left that out, just so that it is as relevant in 20 years as it is now, it would be capturing the essence of the artist, who they are as a person and their process. That’s the focus of it.”

He believes the collection will be helpful and inspiring for budding artists.

“I think every artist is fascinating in their own way. They’re all motivated by different things and there’s something to learn from them all.

“Especially for young artists coming up. When you listen to Shane Connaughton for example, or Kim’s, or Paul’s this is common to them: they talk about how they first started getting into art. With Paul he just started painting at five, he didn’t really think too much about, with Kim it was seeing a ladybird in her back garden.

“With Shane it was the incredibly vulnerable thing that he said - it was him being moved from Kingscourt to Redhills, that had a devastating effect on him. And that’s one of the reasons why he’s written all these years: he’s like writing around his bone, all his life. It’s amazing to think that a traumatic event like that could create a writer.

“I think it’s fascinating for a young artist coming up to listen to these profiles and just hear the personal story behind the artist and to know, that they are as unsure - even great successful artists are as unsure as any artist starting out - they’ll see commonalities.”