The creator of the controversial ‘Púca of Ennistymon’ said on Thursday the artwork “is the best thing I have ever done” and described condemnation by a local priest as "Fr Ted Stuff"
In an interview, Dublin-based artist, Aidan Harte said that “if the people of Ennistymon don’t get this I believe it will be a missed opportunity for the town”.
He said: “I hope that they see the light.” Mr Harte was speaking four days after Clare County Council announced the €30,000 project has been ‘paused’ after a local backlash against the plan.
The opposition against the bronze 2m high Púca even involved local parish priest Fr Willie Cummins denouncing the planned Púca from the altar at Mass last Sunday, describing it as "sinister".
Mr Harte said on Thursday: “Up until now there has been an organised minority that have been protesting against it but now more voices are speaking up and we will see how the chips fall.”
The artist claimed that “there are a helluva lot of people from Clare saying that it is great”.
Mr Harte described the intervention by Fr Cummins from the altar last Sunday as “Fr Ted stuff”.
He said: “I didn’t think they did denunciations from the altar anymore.”
In recent days, two of the country’s most successful entertainers have come out in support of Mr Harte’s Púca.
In a tweet, comedian Dara Ó Briain haș described Fr Cummins’s response to the Púca as “hilarious in many ways, but also depressing”.
A priest in Ennistymon. Co Clare wants this statue stopped, as it is “sinister” apparently. Hilarious in many ways, but also depressing; the artist Aidan Harte does amazing work (I have a piece of his within arm’s reach), including this rendering of a Celtic shape-changing spirit https://t.co/BGcrywIHXn— Dara Ó Briain (@daraobriain) May 12, 2021
Ó Briain haș purchased a sculpture from Mr Harte in the past and he continued: “Aidan Harte does amazing work including this [Púca] rendering of a Celtic shape-changing spirit.”
In response to an image of the Púca, O Briain retweeted, actor, Chris O’Dowd commented "love it".
Mr Harte said other towns are saying “if Ennistymon doesn’t want we’ll have it".
He said: “I don’t know how serious the offers are but I don’t want that because it is for Ennistymon."
Mr Harte said “a vocal minority have set their mind against it” in Ennistymon but later added: “I don’t want to foist something onto people that they don’t want”.
Mr Harte said when the pausing of the Púca received national attention “I started hearing from a lot of people from Clare that they loved it”.
Mr Harte said that he has put his "blood, sweat and tears" into working on the piece nine to five every day since last January.
He said he has now completed one-third of the process of making the Púca.
He said: “It is not ideal that it has been paused but I understand why it has happened.
“When it was paused, it was an okay time for it to have happened because we had just finished moulding the clay. “
Mr Harte confirmed the council had already paid the first of three instalments of payments for the piece – about €10,000.
He said: “I can say without boasting that it is a technically impressive piece.” It is Mr Harte’s first public art commission and he beat off competition from 18 other entrants for the public art piece for the north Clare town.
Mr Harte studied in Florence, Italy where he learned classical sculpture and he said: “Something of this scale is something that I have been training for for more than a decade.
“If for other reasons the Púca ends being sort of destroyed by a public backlash that is another thing but I can hold my head up high and say it is an impressive piece of sculpture.”
Púca, which means spirit or ghost, is primarily a creature of Celtic folklore and was considered a bringer of both good and bad fortune and the Púca were said to be shape-changers, which could take the appearance of horses, cats or dogs.
Mr Harte said the brief for the project was to draw people’s attention and draw people to Ennistymon “and in an odd way, it has already done that”.
He said: "It is not going to be your average generic sculpture piece. The Púca is going to be a big personality and the nature of big personalities is that they are divisive."