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Artist spills the beans on his love of classic tin cans

ONE man's hill of beans is another man's cathedral. Artist Patrick O'Reilly has created a shiny, soaring structure some 25 feet high using the humble bean can.

The towering stack of more than 5,000 empty baked bean cans, pictured above with the artist by Frank McGrath, takes centre stage -- outside because it won't fit in the building -- of his new exhibition which opens at Oliver Sears Gallery, Molesworth Street, Dublin, this week.

Appropriately entitled 'Six Impossible Things before Breakfast' from 'Alice in Wonderland', the exhibition includes nearly 30 bronze and metal works by the sculptor who is best known for his bronze bears outside the 02 venue in Dublin.

The Kilkenny artist discovered that sourcing empty cans is not so easily done because food processors make up the cans around the contents.

So he had Bachelors do a special run of about 10,000 empty cans with the lids on. (Recycled cans wouldn't do because the lids have been cut off and the edges are sharp, he explained).

As to the source of his inspiration, O'Reilly says he simply loves food cans. "It's a lovely shape, people like to hold it. There is something iconic or classic about a tin can."

Although his current work is built entirely out of empty, virgin cans, O'Reilly said he would love to work with the full variety as he loves the visual imagery created by the repetition of the labelling.

"The modern hypermarkets are a form of cathedral, with their huge soaring ceilings," he said, adding that the supermarket has replaced the church as a place we go for social interaction.

He described his work as "whimsical", saying he tried to look on the world with a certain innocence, preferring "to make life a little bit happier".

Irish Independent