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Pangolin London's first exhibition devoted to Breon O'Casey opens in London
Breon O’Casey, Aphrodite, 2008, Bronze. Edition of 3. Photo: Courtesy of Pangolin London and the artist’s estate.

LONDON.- Breon O’Casey came to sculpture in the latter part of his career having previously concentrated on painting, printmaking and jewellery. The intense and prolific body of sculpture he created over a short period highlights O’Casey’s ability to successfully master a new medium whilst still exploring central themes of figuration and abstraction. O’Casey honed his exceptional craftsmanship as an apprentice to Denis Mitchell and Barbara Hepworth but his visual language is entirely his own as he drew on myriad influences from antiquity to Modernism. This exhibition celebrates the remarkable artist with an important retrospective of sculpture, paintings and collage: the first in London for nearly a decade.

Son of the celebrated Irish playwright Sen O’Casey, Breon O’Casey’s Celtic roots permeated his aesthetic as he came of age at school in Devon and to artistic maturity in St Ives. O’Casey’s passion for art and craftsmanship began at a young age at the progressive Dartington Hall School, Devon where he was taught metalwork by Naum Slutsky, previously head of metalwork at the Bauhaus. He went on to study at the AngloFrench Art Centre and then lived and worked in St Ives at a time when its artistic scene was flourishing. Although he wouldn’t follow fashions he spoke of the huge respite found in being part of such a hub: “The relief of mingling with other crazy artists was enormous...One must remember the strong antagonism to modern art then, and the nervous energy used up resisting it.” O’Casey’s life and background may explain his myriad influences from Europeans such as Modigliani to his St Ives contemporary Ben Nicholson to ancient Cycladic sculpture.

In St Ives, O’Casey apprenticed for Barbara Hepworth and Denis Mitchell who taught him the skill and perfectionism that allowed him to become an exceptional craftsman; however he did not focus on his own sculpture until he reached the age of 70, which evolved from his jewellery into small silver animals. The discovery of wax, which he preferred to plaster and clay, allowed him to cast into bronze and become more ambitious with the sculptural works. This exhibition positions his stirring sculpture alongside his paintings and collages.

Breon O’Casey’s stunning visual language oscillates between figuration and abstraction, which is shared across the many mediums he mastered. He compared his abstract paintings to still lives which later morphed into abstract landscapes whereas his sculpture focused on human, bird and animal figures. O’Casey had a separate studio for painting and for sculpture which allowed him to fully immerse himself in each medium. Whether figures, plants or abstract shapes and painting or sculpture, the artist’s works are full of energy and warmth, which can be attributed to his joy in the creation process as much as his simplified aesthetic.

This is Pangolin London’s first exhibition devoted to this exceptional artist and the first solo show of the artist’s work since his death in 2011. The selling exhibition offers a unique opportunity to review his painting, sculpture and collage including a number of paintings that have never before been seen.

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