Helen O'Connell Stone Sculpture

Stone has long been considered the mythical symbol of silent, lifeless death, by people such as W. B.Yeats who thought death “as cold and lonely as a stone”. For me the stone is a layered repository of past experience which emanates its own living energy. I find nothing as aesthetically satisfying as a dry stone wall in the West of Ireland and nothing as comforting to touch as a perfectly smoothed pebble from a beach.

I am inexplicably drawn to this medium and keep returning to it again and again, ever captivated by its unique properties. Much of my work is in Irish Killkenny limestone, a beautifully versatile material composed of marine life compressed over thousands of years. The island of Ireland was still attached to mainland Europe when this material was being formed, and as I move through the stone molecule by molecule I am excited by the discovery of fossils found within. The blocks of Portuguese marble used in my sculptures have been carefully selected from piles of discarded stones in the quarries of Alentejo for their unique veins, coloration and particularities. The veins in the marble announce geological change through the ages, or dramatic rupture in unexpected vibrant splashes of colour. I find a lingering echo of the vital earth processes that were involved in the formation of these stones to be enduringly present.

My sculpture began with a desire to present subject matter one would not usually associate with the gravitas of stone using a playful, almost cartoonlike aesthetic designed to appeal predominantly to children (who are still my most respected critics). A lifelong love of music and belief in its transformative power has also inspired much of my work. My 2007 exhibition ‘The Stone The Circle The Rhythm’ sought to explore both stone and musical instruments as static repositories of temporary realities and pay homage to the beauty and craftsmanship of musical instruments themselves. As my work progresses I find I strive to convey the underlying complexity of nature by reducing seemingly simple forms to their fundamentals . I approach all of my sculpture as pure forms in and of themselves in the hope that they may elicit a tactile response. Mother Nature continues to be my most admired sculptor and I strive to create something as beautiful and perfect as a pebble.