Flanagan first began casting in bronze in the foundry at Central School of Art in 1969, run by sculptor Henry Abercrombie. This moment marked the beginning of a collaboration with Abercrombie, and the A&A foundry that Abercrombie went on to set up with Andy Elton. A relationship that continued when the foundry went on to become AB Fine Art Foundry.
Flanagan relished the whole process from armature to clay, to lost wax casting through to the emerging bronze and went on to regard the work of the foundry as central to his output.
'My fascination is to do with the alchemy of the theatre of the group with my particular input as author and with the communal skills of the foundry that I do not control or direct. It’s a theatrical group. My precious original is sacrificed to the power of the mould.’Barry Flanagan Interview with Adrian Dannatt, The Art Newspaper, no,145. March 2004
It wasn’t until 1979 that Flanagan began to focus his practice more resolutely on the medium. He cast his first bronze leaping hare on 7 November, a motif in his work that was to become much loved.
It was also in 1979 that Flanagan visited an exhibition of the Horses of San Marco at the Royal Academy of Arts which made a deep impression on his thinking and approach to the medium.
The sheer tactile physicality of the ancient modelled horses created an aura and majesty. The varied patinas and gilding also provided substantial material to investigate the properties of bronze and the exhibition catalogue included essays on ancient casting methods and techniques.
‘Technically, materials have advanced greatly, but in sculptural terms nothing has advanced better than bronze. If you want to make the cast from a modeled piece more permanent, bronze is the thing. Bronze is a very fine material, a beautiful material.’Barry Flanagan in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, 2005
Flanagan identified the role of light as a separate, but totally sculptural element and considered it a key component in sculpture. For several years natural, manmade and artificial light were central elements in his work.