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Brilliant Artist Has A Pint To Prove

by John Fitzgerald

Michael Holden

Inistioge doesn’t have an official arts festival but villagers have just been treated to an awesome work of art.
Not in a gallery or any other exhibition room but in possibly the best place you could have it for display purposes: Over a pub entrance.
O’Donnell’s pub has long been synonymous with Inistioge, the picturesque Kilkenny village that tourists often liken to the South of France.
Long months of lockdown had locals wondering if they’d ever get inside in for a pint again.
The pub’s re-opening was welcomed with a collective sigh of relief, but this was followed by an even heartier sighs of admiration when a mural was unveiled over the bar door.
Not just any old mural. This consisted of two visually stunning paintings on ceramic tiles.
One shows Inistioge Bridge as it looked in the 1920s, and the second is based on an old postcard from the 1970s, showing the village square.
Two boys are talking in the picture. The one sitting in the chair is Danny O’Donnell, brother of John the present-day publican.

O’Donnell’s pub, Inistioge, with the ceramic artwork over entrance.

The boy standing is Michael Holden, who became the talented man who worked for Mosses of Bennettsbridge before striking out on his own as a landscape ceramic artist.
It was Michael who created the mural on O’Donnell’s pub-front. Twenty feet long, the twin depiction of Inistioge was executed on 80 ceramic tiles which had been meticulously fired on a kiln.
Michael draws his inspiration from the village and the scenic countryside surrounding it.
He is equally at home painting traditional or contemporary scenes.
His paintings have been exhibited before, especially at Inistioge’s Mermaid Gallery.
But his latest work, due to its location, is guaranteed a huge audience.
In the coming years it will be seen by people from all points of the compass, not all of them art connoisseurs
If you’re visiting Inistioge or even just passing through, be sure to have a look at the mural.
It harks back to a quieter and more innocent age when there was less traffic, less pollution, and nature had its own way.
In decades to come, people may ask who painted that ceramic masterpiece over the door of O’ Donnell’s?

Inistioge Bridge in the 1920s

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