Category: Asset 3Arts & Leisure

O’Reilly focuses on ‘involuntary memory’

July 23, 2018

By Peter McDermott

“Bear with Spoon and Egg.”


By Peter McDermott

The title of Irish sculptor Patrick O’Reilly’s second exhibition at Gallery Valois America in New York, “In Search of Lost Time,” references the novel of the same name by Marcel Proust.

So perhaps it’s not a surprise that when asked about influences he doesn’t cite any sculptors of the past. “I would place great emphasis on the European philosophers,” said the Belfast School of Art alum, “especially the great German thinkers such as Schopenhauer and Kant.  I am also greatly inspired by the music of Wagner and his wonderful compositions.”

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Patrick O’Reilly’s latest New York exhibition is showing

at Gallery Vallois America through Sept. 29.


With regard to his own profession, O’Reilly said he admires all artists: “In particular, I so respect any sculptors who try to plow a new furrow. I applaud those who create something original without imitation.”

A central theme of Proust’s seven-volume novel is “involuntary memory,” which is the focus of O’Reilly’s 30-piece exhibition through Sept. 29 at the gallery located at 27 East 67th Street, and to explore that he returns to his animal-kingdom sculptures.

“From childhood days our first memory is that of a bear. He personifies innocence, companionship and trust,” the sculptor says in a statement for the show. “He is pure spirit and symbolizes unworldliness. As adults many of us remember this childhood time with a reverence as sadly this era must end. Life must take its course and is never stationary. The Bear marches on with a look of resigned acceptance. He keeps going despite life’s turbulence and uncertainty. He is silent and does not complain.

“The Bear has a human face. The stitching represents our fragility; underneath we are all vulnerable. Like the Bear we all strive each day to march forward with an air of optimism.”


“Raining Hatchets.”


O’Reilly, who is known for his large-scale bronze work and installation works that are often monumental in scale, continues, “The Bear may prime involuntary memory. It may trigger sensory experiences and allow viewers to revisit the essence of their past. It may also lead to flashbacks and recollections of preceding times. That significant memory may prompt recollections of events long past with happy and joyous nostalgia but with an awareness that we must proceed on, together or alone, bravely, optimistically and without fear.”

O’Reilly lives between studios in Dublin, Auvergne in France and Long Island City over the East River in Queens and and is represented by the Mayor Gallery in London, Galerie Vallois in Paris and Gormley’s Fine Art in Dublin and Belfast. He said of the New York arts scene: “It’s astonishing. The weekend I opened my show there, the New York Frieze and Tefaf Art Fairs were also on.  I am so inspired when I visit the big New York museums such as the Frick, the Guggenheim and MoMa. The gem for me is the Neue Museum.

“America has such a huge Irish population with a strong goodwill towards the Irish arts,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a New York gallery solely devoted to exhibiting and promoting Irish art?”

For more about O’Reilly, go to patrickoreilly.ie; and for more information about the exhibition and Vallois, which is celebrating 45 years of existence, and 35 years at the rue de Seine in the St. Germain des Prés neighborhood in Paris, go to vallois.com or call 212-517-3820. Opening hours Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.

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