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Patrick O'Reilly Born in Kilkenny in 1957
O'Reilly in the space of less than a decade has advanced over the Irish art scene with the energy and seeming unstoppability of an Atlantic gale. He first came to my own attention in the prestigious Galway's Arts Week a few years ago, when he showed a large installation-style work called "the Monkey Trap" -really, a whole nexus of thematically related but wildly contrasting pieces. As I wrote at the time for 'The Irish Times', his only problem seemed to be that of 'having to many ideas instead of too few'. This fertility was teamed with astonishing technical resource; he seemed to have a one-man factory at his disposal. The impression of a radical new talent was enhanced later in the same year (1996) by his exhibition at the Hugh lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin.
Where to fit him, and how to describe or label him? As an installationaist? That among other things, yet as this present exhibition shows, he is fully capable of producing small bronzes with a kind of dreamlike, surreal exactitude as well as large works in fibreglass. A Pop Expressionist? He may be pop in the sense he draws from contemporary imagery ranging from fair ground figures to horror comics, but there is a humour and imaginative freedom in his approach which lifts him well about the often lurid, tasteless and generally witless world of so much eighties art, typified by the now almost forgotten trend known as Bad Painting. (was there also something called Bad Sculpture? If so I cannot remember it).
O'Reilly is an eruptive, inventive and anarchic in his small pieces as in his large ones. He is perfectly at home in his wide variations of scale and has even constructed a stre3et sculpture in Dublin which he calls the 'Rockets' and which towers to fifty feet high. However it would be an injustice to regard him as essentially a virtuos of startling effects and quickfire technical invention; there is an underlying note of social compassion and an identification with the lonely, the misfits and the unwanted ones of society. The carnival of modern life he presents has it's shadows and cruel spots, which may easily be missed behind a hectic or gaudy vitality. And from a certain angle, O'Reilly can also be seem as one of the creators of a new kind of folk culture and street mythology.
Brian Fallon, author and art critic