Bryan Illsley's output as painter, sculptor and silversmith makes him refreshingly unclassifiable in a visual culture that loves to pigeon-hole. His playful and fluid ease with different materials, on canvas, board and paper, in wood, metal and clay, is accompanied by a continually fresh and direct way of marking, carving and beating. It is where the natural possibilities and character of the medium are part and parcel with a fertile imagination at work.
Born in 1937, he attended evening class at Kingston School of Art, but was soon moving away to his own experiments and ideas, a liberation that continued at the Leach Pottery in St Ives, and working with Breon 0'Casey in his nearby studio, experiences that helped give Illsley an innate plastic sense of the material, qualities he admires in the purity and expressiveness of much early 20th century art, and in vibrant folk and vernacular traditions. But he draws from a wide variety of sources, his art ranging from the sparest abstraction in painting to surreal totems and toy-like objects full of life and colour. He is essentially an artistic outsider, away from the mainstream, and he has kept a rare ability to surprise, as each visit to the studio is a new journey.