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Local man Benny Clancy’s exhibition at Leitrim Sculpture Centre is the culmination of 16 years of work completed in 2012. Consisting of around 150 paintings, mostly in oils on canvas or board, the exhibition captures the moods and atmospheres of North Leitrim and Sligo at the turn of the millennium as well depicting important events and scenes typical of earlier periods in Irish rural life.

Although critical of the hierarchies of institutional, religious or classical art Clancy took great inspiration from modern masters notably Cezanne, whom he saw in Paris and London, and especially Paul Henry from Ireland. Like these artists Clancy was a loner and a rebel who sought inspiration from the everyday events that surrounded him and especially the people who populated his daily travels. The works on show include portraiture, landscapes, still-life, domestic scenes, animal studies as well as many views of Manorhamilton that were aided by the use of photographic images as well as works made directly from the subject.

A central part of the exhibition includes a large number of portraits consisting of detailed studies of mostly local people that Clancy would have known well in the area. It was this close attachment, understanding and sympathy with the lives of ordinary working people that drove Clancy’s practice, both connecting him to his predecessors work whilst underpinning his own unique and expressive style captured in this retrospective exhibition of his work.

Benny Clancy

Born in Manorhamilton in August 1948 Benny Clancy was from an early stage captivated by the life and work of artists both in Ireland and abroad. These passions were kept alive after he left the Christian Brothers National School in Manorhamilton at the age of sixteen to work in Coyles Bakery on Tea-Pot Lane (depicted here in the exhibition). Largely self-trained Clancy’s art practice took place mostly at home whilst during the day he undertook a series of jobs in local industries including as an electrician installing aerials with Gilmurray’s Electrical (on New Line) and as a barman for the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran, as well as in Finsbury in London, from 1967 – 1969.

In 1969 Clancy returned to Ireland to be closer to his mother who was very ill. He worked in Dun Laoghaire and this was where he met his wife Phil. Clancy returned to Manorhamilton in 1972 to take care of his mother and this is where he and Phil both settled and raised their three children Jesamine, Amanda and Jason in Clancy’s childhood home on Mc Dermott Terrace. It was back in Manorhamilton during the 1970’s and 80’s that Clancy became well known locally as a sign-writer of the highest quality and as such was in demand by local businesses and hostelries throughout the region.

Many of the places and characters he met along these various journeys were to become the subjects of Clancy’s later paintings. Determined to establish a body of work that bore witness to both his art historical influences and especially his own unique response to the everyday life, people and landscapes of his native town of Manorhamilton, Clancy embarked on a series of paintings made between 1996 and 2012 which form the retrospective display on show at the Leitrim Sculpture Centre today.

Benny Clancy died on the 27th August 2014 leaving all his work in the care of his wife Phil, who, with the help of family and friends, brought his work to the attention of the Centre. Phil’s family and the Leitrim Sculpture Centre would like to thank Vincent Sheehan, Andy Roche, Jackie McKenna for all their help in making this exhibition possible.