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Exhibition Review At one with nature

MICHAL BONCZA recommends a retrospective of work by the late Breon O'Casey

Breon O’Casey: The World Beyond
Pangolin, London

THE BEST measure of Breon O’Casey’s work is the way in which it draws the viewer in by offering an evident sense of companionship, an intuitive partnership of equals with shared values. Familiar though the perceptions may be, the formal and non-confrontational simplicity is deceptive in this retrospective of painting, sculpture and jewellery, some not seen for decades.

Reclining nudes have been a painters’ staple fare for over 20,000 years, since the Australia’s aborigines masterfully adorned the Burrungkuy rocks. But flesh tones and the sculptural effects of light are of no interest to O’Casey — his nudes are cerebral constructs where the emotional charge is delivered through subtle compositional variation and a warm palette of ochres gently accented with black or purple.

Similar in approach, Figure in Landscape and Tree arrest the eye in espousing nature as the very extension of ourselves, with the greens and greys harmonising to soothe and nourish the soul.

The nature theme is revisited in O'Casey's evocative sculptures of birds. Never entirely representational, they're immortalised as an array of movable shapes occupying space and then transmuting within it.

Laced with humour, Ring of Birds is a comical observation of an enigmatic gathering or perhaps a perplexing debate about fly-over zones or nesting rights. Jungle Bird arrogantly displays a vainglorious panache, while the stillness of Flightless Bird has the air of a poseur or of a suddenly perked interest. Each is locked into an essentially abstract form that encapsulates the fleeting essence of the moment.

Perhaps the Deer, reminiscent of a talisman, amulet or a pagan forest deity, alludes to a previous age of respect for and wholesome relationship with nature, way before domination and exploitation replaced symbiosis and harmony.

The Acrobat’s charming stillness, perhaps at the conclusion of a routine, is quintessential O’Casey in its graceful serenity.

His work, understated and intelligent, invites contemplation and, with its enhanced sense of tranquillity and wellbeing, it's not to be missed.

Runs until August 11, opening times: pangolinlondon.com. Free admission.

 

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