Painting is Another Language

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To paint is to wait and watch, to try and listen to the picture, to chance a stroke, to hope for the best. 

- Breon O’Casey

Pangolin London are delighted to announce a new exhibition of paintings and prints - many never seen before - by prominent St Ives artist Breon O’Casey. Bringing together the greatest number of paintings ever presented to the public, Painting is Another Language will also display some of the painter’s early works. 

As the son of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey whose passion for visual art almost led him to become a painter himself, Breon O’Casey grew up surrounded by art in an environment which gave him the impression that he ‘[shared] a house with Matisse’. Consequently, Breon began to paint at a young age and often used his family as models, as shown in the photograph below, taken by famous photographer Gjon Mili, of a young O’Casey painting his sister Shivaun reading in the early 1950s.

Known for his wide-reaching style that encompassed both the figurative and the abstract, Breon O’Casey’s work is founded on a series of repetitive motifs; from simple, bold images of birds and hills reminiscent of Braque and Matisse, to his use of colourful triangles, spirals and polka dots in constructing landscapes rich with emotion. Occasionally, O’Casey drew inspiration from literature or mythology – for example, his Leda and the Swan paintings or his Three Graces, which are shown here together for first time. 

Breon O’Casey studied at Dartington Art School, where he was taught by the influential artist Naum Slutzky, a Russian-Jewish refugee and former head of metalwork at the Bauhaus. Between 1948 and 1950, he attended the Anglo-French Art Centre in St John’s Wood, London, and studied under tutors including Fernand Léger, André Lhote and  Germaine Richier. In 1959, he moved to St Ives after watching a television programme about Alfred Wallis’ life in Cornwall. 

Soon after he arrived at St Ives, he became a part-time assistant to Denis Mitchell and then to Dame Barbara Hepworth, before rising to prominence as an influential member of the School of St Ives. O’Casey became accomplished at working in a wide range of media: painting, weaving, jewellery, printmaking - and later in life, sculpture.

Painting is Another Language will present an original selection of paintings, prints and jewellery from the artist’s estate which is now represented by Pangolin London.