O’Casey’s long career saw him master each medium with a painstaking dedication, borne from his constant focus on the creative process itself. Never completely settling on either side of figurative or abstract, his work has always flitted playfully between these two definitions, using each term against the other but harmonising them perfectly. While his abstract paintings remain soft, yet linear and boldly coloured, O’Casey’s sculptures have a figurative grace and presence of their own, whether they are large or small in scale. One of the most important pieces in the exhibition is Acrobat – one of O’Casey’s first ever large sculptures. Deliberately lending itself to outdoor display, Acrobat is almost alive in its scale and supple, organic lines, yet remains gentle and soothing in its posture and texture. Among the paintings, a key piece is Grey Above, one of O’Casey’s last ever works. More subdued than other later works such as Farewell or Slug in the Garden, Grey Above is pleasing in its elegant symmetry and understated hues. O’Casey’s habitual calm reduction of objects to simpler shapes and colours is apparent here – a practice that stayed with him throughout his career.
Breon O’Casey’s time in St. Ives (having moved there in the late 1950s) saw him come under the influence, instruction and occasionally, partnership of some of the region’s most prominent artists, sculptors and jewellers – among them Barbara Hepworth and Denis Mitchell. What O’Casey took from his time with each of them was always different and personal, and often a frank lesson about his method, attitude or practice. More often than not, they allowed this natural craftsman to extend his capabilities, through learning and perfecting the various mediums that each of them had come to preside over.
Breon O’Casey’s long career was as varied and fascinating as the work he produced. Lemon Street Gallery is proud to be hosting this seminal retrospective exhibition for a man who became one of the British art scene’s most important and respected artists.