The Paintings & Ceramics of
Stephen O'Driscoll

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I’VE KNOWN STEPHEN for almost 25 years and in that

time, he has always impressed me with his direct

and insightful manner of painting. His attitude is a

refreshing “what you see is what you get” approach

to some of life’s most significant issues. Whether they

be intractable and all-consuming or delightful and

euphoric. Stephen is a rare kind of artist; one who takes

his work more seriously than himself – if that makes

sense? He has always struck me as someone who needs

to paint. Someone with something worth sharing.

  During a recent conversation about his most recent

paintings it became clear that his work has always been

primarily concerned with love – what it is to be loved

and the overwhelming sense of abandonment at its

loss. Stephen is simultaneously capable of celebrating

life whilst mindful of its profound fragility – and

transience. His work is deceptively ambitious.

The Weight of Knowing

  In his paintings Stephen has achieved an extraordinary synthesis; a compelling and

precarious mixture of acceptance and apprehension. His paintings are always visually

stunning – literally. Pure, sumptuous colours that ‘cloak’ a kind of drawing that displays

elements of automatism, appropriation and studious reflection. The tensions in his

paintings are almost palpable – and sometimes even daunting

  As so much contemporary painting drifts towards literalism and illustration, Stephen’s

work remains implacably visual. His combined love of the material and his grasp of the

poetic is fast becoming all too rare. In fact, his landscapes demand to be experienced as if

they were not merely poetic, but poetry. They’re anything but landscapes – they’re states

of mind.

Opposite:
Green Spaghetti Head

  I thought I was familiar with Stephen’s work. But was I in for a shock; his ceramics are

a revelation? Once again, he has managed to combine a sense of wonder with more

than a whiff of apprehension. He has achieved this without resorting to the hackneyed conventions of expressionism or the ceramicists age old ally – process. Instead, he has the ability to make objects that simultaneously beguile and disturb. Objects that appear both

fascinating and absurd. His ceramics are simultaneously joyous and somehow wonderfully ‘wrong’. Both exquisitely judged and

knowingly misjudged.

  Just about everything Stephen makes appears to resonate

with a rich mixture of love and anxiety – the joyful and the

tragic. There’s genuine pathos. Heads that are becoming

‘unbound’ – again a metaphor, only this time a three-

dimensional metaphor that illustrates a state of mind rather

than a state of affairs. The last thing they aspire to is

likeness. Evidence of some intangible but nonetheless

seemingly visible trauma – or rather its shadow. It’s as if

the bandages have been partially removed to reveal not

The Invisible Man – but an unknowable man.

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  Stephens work embraces many contradictions, but his

greatest achievement is his ability to invest the familiar with the profound. Enjoy.                                              

Graham Crowley 2021