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Liam Flynn

Woodwork Memories

Ten Early Works from the Studio

Oliver Sears Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of early work by the late Liam Flynn, the pre-eminent wood turner of his generation in Ireland, with a reputation that was blossoming internationally before his untimely death, four years ago.


Flynn succeeded in elevating his work far beyond the intimate circle of makers and collectors of applied arts. His skill and artistry has been recognised by some of the most knowledgeable patrons of the art world. Each vessel is imbued with an aesthetic that, on the surface, can but charm with its almost impossible, aching beauty. Below the surface and transcending their physical elegance, Flynn’s objects offered an intellectual compression of humankind’s relationship with the object, from functional to decorative, emblematic to totemic. The isolation of his studio on the Limerick-Kerry border afforded him the focus to hone his craft undistracted from the noise of the push-pull of urban promise which, for some artists, can lead to a counterproductive distortion of process and intention. The geographic remoteness also allowed him time to think and dream. 


The current exhibition takes a selection of work from 1986 to 1991. Already at the age of 17, Flynn’s natural affinity to his medium is obvious. Vessels in holly, cherrywood and spalted beech are shaped and finished with a maturity not normally seen in teenage years. These very first works show carving, lining and various other techniques that become more pronounced signatures in the later works where fluting and double rims emerge.


There are recurrant themes that span Flynn’s whole career. He said, "I feel as if I’ve been making the same piece for almost 30 years. Someone said to me recently that he thinks my work is about memory, in particular my fluted pieces, that every slice of the chisel leaves an imprint that captures that particular moment in time. There is also the memory of the pieces I’ve made before and of course the memory of the actual tree itself. The space between each growth ring is a record of each particular year."


It is a great privilege to exhibit such a coherent group of early works that connect so clearly to the more familiar later examples. We owe much to Joe O’Keefe, Flynn’s woodwork teacher at school in Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick. Not only did he open the gate for Liam Flynn to find his path, he was instrumental in preserving much of the early work which until now had been unknown to Flynn's audience We also need to recognize the dedication of Flynn’s partner, Mary Leahy for her ongoing contribution as a guardian of his estate and, most importantly, as a true sentinel of Liam Flynn’s memory.





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