Wednesday 21 March 2018

What lies beneath: A Connemara Pony by David Lilburn

A Connemara Pony by David Lilburn
A Connemara Pony by David Lilburn

Niall MacMonagle

The Connemara pony is descended, it is said, from horses that Viking soldiers brought to Ireland. Another theory goes that they have Spanish blood, that Irish ponies were cross-bred with Andalusian horses that arrived on Spanish galleons. And this exotic and special breed has forged its own identity: The Connemara Pony Society was set up in 1923 and has since gone global -- from Denmark to New Zealand to Canada. But these beautiful animals are most at home in County Galway.

Painter, poet and pony got together to make this image. Artists usually work alone but different talents in collaboration can make for marvellously rich interactions. This dynamic trio, painter and printmaker David Lilburn, man-of-words Tony Curtis and the Connemara pony, made many monoprints possible, over 40 poems and all gathered together into a handsome book.

Curtis says that they "went out to be with the ponies", ponies being too self-contained and independent to come to them. The silvery grey-and-white pony with its black tail is at the centre of the image. Here the pony is all alone in its element, and monarch of all it surveys. The freshness of the brushstrokes matches perfectly the dancing, spring winds of Connemara when the air is gentler, softer. There's a free, expansive feel to it. Rock, lake, the hills on the horizon and the wild, soft landscape under hoof convey a sense of ease and openness.

Curtis says "A pony will listen to you all day/ And grow more fond of you/ With every kind word you say" and thinks that there should be a town called Pony in Connemara. "There is in Montana". He's been there.

In Pony Time, the poem accompanying this print, Curtis says that "Ponies don't have days of the week;/ They judge things by the light./ If it's sunny and bright, it's a Saturday:/ They can lie in, sleep late on the grass,/ Swim or stand by the shore./ If it is grey, raining, and everything/ Is covered in mist, then it's a Monday:/ They hunker down and just get through."

Sound advice to kick-start the year. Just get through.

  • Pony by Tony Curtis and David Lilburn, published by Occasional Press, will be launched in The Lime Tree at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick on Friday, February 21 at 7 pm as part of the Kate O'Brien Weekend Limerick Literary Festival and can be ordered online from

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