Breon O'Casey British, 1928-2011

Breon O’Casey was a significant member of the St. Ives school whose leading figures included Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Bernard Leach. He began his working career as an assistant to Denis Mitchell and Barbara Hepworth in St. Ives, whilst setting himself up as a painter, jeweller, weaver, and later sculptor. He said of this time:

 

'Ah St Ives! In those days still a working fishing port, with tourism and art only tolerated, but kindly tolerated. The relief of mingling with other crazy artists was enormous. It was literally as if a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. This is exactly how it felt. One must remember the strong antagonism to modern art then, and the nervous energy used up resisting it.'

 

O’Casey’s work is characterised by simple forms and lines and a very personal set of imagery. Birds, animals and human figures are pared down to their very essence, giving them a primitive and mystical presence. O’Casey’s ability to apply himself so successfully to such a wide range of materials and making processes was an unusual talent and latterly he was afforded the luxury of having small separate studios for each discipline. When it came to painting he described his way of refining subject matter in a way that can be applied to all his media:

 

'I am an abstract painter, closer, in my work, to the older definition of a still life painter than a landscape painter. A painter, that is, who works best in the confines of his studio, and who sees the world through a collection of pots and pans, apples and oranges (or circles, triangles and squares) rather than the fields, trees and skies. To look outside at the vast vista of unending landscape flowing in all directions, is for me too difficult to try and get down on paper. I shut the door and work in my windowless studio.'