Jim Fitzpatrick in a black jacket standing in front of a projected image of his drawing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Artist Jim FitzPatrick with a drawing of Martin Luther King Jr in the background. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Iconic artist Jim FitzPatrick looks back on a lifetime of stunning artwork

19 Jul 2019

Artist Jim FitzPatrick was a special guest on stage at Inspirefest 2019, showcasing his life’s work campaigning for social justice causes.

Even if you’ve never heard of Jim FitzPatrick, you’ve definitely seen his work on a whole range of album covers, posters and T-shirts. The Irish artist made a special appearance at last May’s Inspirefest 2019, where he told stories about some of his most iconic pieces from the past and his plans for the future.

Of course, his most iconic image is his two-tone, red and black painting of Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. Shown to the world in 1968, the painting was based on a photograph taken by Alberto Korda, with FitzPatrick having met Che while working in a bar in the town of Kilkee, Co Clare.

While that image may be his most iconic, FitzPatrick’s work straddles many different areas across politics, Irish mythology and human rights. Speaking on stage, he said that he was likely one of the first major artists in Ireland to have an online presence back in 1995 with prints of his work free to download, which continues today.

“I learned you give stuff away on the internet because if you don’t they’re going to take it anyway,” he quipped.

One of his most recent works, as he revealed on stage, was a series called Black Lives Matter, focusing on iconic American figures such as Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Angela Davis.

FitzPatrick has also covered issues in other parts of the world, including the image of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi posing as Wonder Woman in an illustration that quickly spread across the world.

Within pop culture, some of the most famous album covers of all time have been created by the artist, many of which came as a collaboration with iconic Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. A longtime friend of lead singer Phil Lynott, FitzPatrick worked with the band to create the famous cover for the Black Rose: A Rock Legend album.

Reflecting on his friendship with Lynott, FitzPatrick told the Inspirefest audience: “This was one of my best friends from way back and we spent so much time together. He used to stay in my house and I used to stay in his house.”

Featuring those overlooked and ignored

Within Ireland, FitzPatrick’s work has touched many campaigns championing equality and social justice for all. As a member of the board of trustees on the Herstory.ie project, he has given the rights for all of his work to be used in the project’s efforts to tell stories of historic, contemporary and mythical women.

Speaking of his place as a male feminist, he said: “You might say why is a man doing this? I’ve been involved in this all my life.

“I was brought up by women. All the people I’m painting will be women because I really feel I have been involved in this for so long [and] it fits in backwards to the very beginnings of the work I did with Celtic goddesses where I felt that they were overlooked and ignored.”

His next work appears to be under wraps, however, with FitzPatrick only teasing that he’s working on a series of paintings about women in STEM. It remains to be seen which iconic figures the artist will paint next.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event celebrating the point where science, technology and the arts collide. Ultra Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2020 are available now.

Colm Gorey
By Colm Gorey

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic. He joined in January 2014 and covered AI, IoT, science and anything that will get us to Mars quicker. When not trying to get his hands on the latest gaming release, he can be found lost in a sea of Wikipedia articles on obscure historic battles and countries that don't exist any more, or watching classic Simpsons episodes far too many times to count.

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