Sculptor, artist, shaper of ancient materials for modern environments, Brian O’ Loughlin grew up on the edge of the bog that delivered up its secrets for him to re-imagine and reinterpret for our times.

Based in Rathangan, Co. Kildare, Brian has a gallery next to his workshop where he works the natural shapes of bog oak, a wood concealed in the bogs for millennia. When the oak is reclaimed from the bogs it is air-dried and left to season for at least five years before Brian begins to mould it into the forms he glimpses within. The resulting sculptures are unique and breathtakingly beautiful.

Bog oak is a precious and ancient material, formed thousands of years ago when the great oak forests of Celtic Ireland were subsumed into peat bogs. The bog of Allen is where Brian seeks his inspiration and has for centuries been a place of wonder, myth, community and commerce.

Growing up on the family farm, Brian imagined his future would be in the field, as it had been for generations before. He encountered bog oak by chance, finding his first piece between Clonbullogue and Rhodes on the bog of Allen. The more he found, the more enthralled he became.

He had devoted himself to this most ancient of materials ever since. “It is simply and purely the most amazing wood in the world. The character, the history, the colour are all so dramatic.”

When he started out, Brian tended to adapt the finished sculpture to the shape of the wood. Now he often takes one long line of wood from a piece of bog oak and discards the rest if necessary. This willingness to break pieces up and recreate new forms results in sculptures that possess strong, fluid lines, grace and a surety of touch.

Depending on the size and shape of the wood, Brian creates all kinds of sculptures in a range of sizes that sit perfectly in any environment, whether it’s a treasured piece in a sitting room, a striking statement in an office lobby or a measure of a person’s worth, a presentation made to them by their peers.

Brian works to commission as well as mounting exhibitions of his work, which can be seen in designyard in Dublin; Red Aesthetic, Kilkenny; Kozo, Thomastown; and the Adrigole Arts in west Cork. Recipients of Brian’s work include Taoisigh past and present; President Mary McAleese; and Senator Ted Kennedy.