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Artist in touch with his roots


Killarney-based Tighe O'Donoghue Ross

Killarney-based Tighe O'Donoghue Ross

Director Patrick O'Shea

Director Patrick O'Shea


Killarney-based Tighe O'Donoghue Ross


With thanks to a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, director Patrick O'Shea's account of the life and times of renowned Killarney-based artist Tighe O'Donoghue Ross is about to enter its post-production phase.

'Why is There Anything Instead of Nothing?' is the first feature-length documentary from Southernman films, and charts the Irish-American's journey from the hectic streets of New York to a quiet home overlooking Lough Guitane.

Patrick (inset) has forged close ties with the artist, and the production process was one that he revelled in: "Tighe's daughter, D'Ana, is my sister in law, and when she started going out with my brother she mentioned that her father was an artist.

"We delved a little deeper, and found his intriguing background. He'd been remarkably successful while living in New York, and couldn't produce enough work to match demand."

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Since moving to Glenflesk with his family in 1986, some of his work could rightly be described as iconic.

The awesome 'An Capall Mór' that overlooks the N22 in Clonkeen is as impactful now as when it first appeared. Tighe is also responsible for a 16-foot statue of Saint Brendan in Fenit, and the 'Dawn and Dusk' themed stain glass windows in St Mary's Cathedral, Killarney.

To say Tighe has strong links with Ireland would be the height of understatement.

He is descended from the chiefs of Loch Lein, and his ancestors built Ross Castle, before they were exiled to the Burren in County Clare, and this connection was what pulled him towards Ireland, Tighe explains:

"They lost the castle because we were traitors to the English crown. More met the same fate, more or less, unless they chose to conform to the English politically, philosophically, and religiously."

Those roots have influenced his work, and Kerry has been a conducive environment for his independent approach to art. He now freely explores across all mediums, without interference from the commercial world.

"With Ireland free in the 20th century, I had an opportunity to leave behind my mark on the Kerry landscapes with examples of my work in celebration of my forefathers. Coming with my family about 30 years ago from New York City was a major change, but in truth you can become tired with anything and look for a change, and that's what happened to me" Tighe says.

Tighe has revelled in Kerry's surrounds, and his experience here far outstrips what he felt in New York.

"Living here in the still wild Mountains of Killarney has put me in touch psychologically with my grandfathers."

"New York was like a dream of success, but nothing compared to the association that I now have with my ancestors, those ghosts who haunt my mind. They were once at the top of the tree and then they suffered all the pangs of Hell", he said.

The documentary's online fundraising campaign reached its target last week, and Patrick can now apply a gloss he feels the work deserves, before moving on to post-production.

"I was surprised at how generous people were, but I'm glad, because there's a few things I want to include just to perfect it. For instance, I'm planning to take some drone shots over 'An Capall Mór', which should be effective. But the bulk of the work has been done over these last two years."

"I've had countless interviews with Tighe, and he's always fascinated with his great stories and superb art. I've thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience."

With work almost complete, Patrick is hoping 'Why is There Anything Instead of Nothing' will premiere in Killarney in January.