An influential exponent of contemporary Irish sculpture during the late 20th century, Conor Fallon was strongly influenced by the artist Toney O’Malley and the St Ives group of artists in Cornwell where he lived for some time. His most recognizable works were large steel sculptures of birds, hares, horses and fish.
Fallon was born in Dublin in 1939, one of six sons to the poet Padraic Fallon. The family soon moved to Wexford where the children shared the management of the farm, while their father worked as a customs official. The house was always full of visitors including writers, musicians and painters. As a child Fallon was fascinated by wildlife, especially birds, and often copied pictures from Archibald Thornburn s Book of Birds. He recalled later that his older brother Brian (who became an Art and Literary critic for the Irish Times) was a significant influence on him by introducing him to stories from the Odyssey.
Fallon was accepted into Trinity College, Dublin to study natural science. But on the advice of a perceptive professor, Fallon soon left Trinity and turned his attention to fine art. His father was horrified because he believed his son’s paintings to be ‘dreadful’. Ever practical, Fallon worked as an accountant during the day to earn a wage, and studied art by night. His early acrylic and gouache landscapes show strong influences ofJack B Yeats.
In 1964 Fallon went to St Ives to see the artist Tony O’Malley, who was a family friend and had settled there a few years previously. He had hoped to study with the abstract landscapist Peter Lanyon, but on the day of his arrival, Lanyon died from injuries he received in a hand gliding accident. Instead, Fallon was introduced to a pupil of Lanyon – the artist Nancy Wynne-Jones, who was 15 years his senior. They felt an instant connection and were married in 1966. By this time, he had become disillusioned with his paintings, most of which he destroyed.
A turning point in his career came when he was introduced to the sculptors Denis Mitchell and Breon O’Casey who took Fallon under their wing. Mitchell in particular instilled a disciplined work ethic in Fallon, insisting that the last 100th of an inch was essential to the integrity of a piece. When Fallon created an Owl In Aluminium (1969) Mitchell advised him to specialize in sculpture.
Fallon held his first exhibition in 1972, in Nanly Orion. Subsequent solo exhibitions were staged in the Emmet Gallery, Dublin (1975), Taylor Galleries, Dublin (1983, 1990, 1993), Ballinglen Arts Fellows at Art Alliance, Philadelphia (1994) and the Theo Waddington Fine Art, Canada.
Although Fallon initially gained recognition for his smaller sculptures of birds, he later confessed he was unable to see how he could convert them into public sculptures without the risk of distortion. He eventually became better known for his large scale steel sculptures, mainly commissioned for public places such as Enniscorthy Bridge (The Singing Bird, (1993) the Bank of Ireland Centre, Independent Newspapers at Citywest, St Patricks Hospital and University College Cork. His works have a sleek, spare beauty with clean lines. He was also influenced by Cubism, which he considered ‘the’ development in the art of the 20th century. He was also influenced by the Romanian Sculptor Constantin Brancusi, as well as early Greek and Egyptian carved figure sculpture.
Fallon was awarded the Oireachtas Gold Medal for Sculpture in 1980, he was elected to Aosdana in 1984, and he became an Associate Member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1981 and a full Member in 1989. He was awarded an Honorary Degree from the National College of Art and Design in 1993.
He died within one year of the death of his beloved wife Nancy, in County Wicklow, and is survived by their 2 children.