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Artist You Need to Know: George Byrne

Art Zealous September 4, 2019

Caitlin Confort

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George Byrne is a down-to-earth and talented artist who creates dreamy depictions of landscapes and urban jungles. Whether he's working on a photo series for an exhibition, printing work for private clients, or admiring YouTube clips of Siberian Tigers, Byrne is constantly analyzing the world around him. You may even recognize his beautiful work from Soho House's permanent collections in their houses around the world!

Byrne grew up in Australia and was drawn to the arts from a young age, but it wasn't until his teenage years that he picked up his first camera. From that moment on, he was curious about the possibility of using photography in a less conventional way, and that idea drove years of experimentation. There was lots of trial and error in his methods and output, but inspiration hit when Byrne first encountered the works of photographers like Wim Wenders, Andreas Gursky, and Grant Mudford in major galleries in Sydney. It was a light-bulb moment in the sense that prior to that, he didn't really know if being a fine arts photographer was a viable career option for him. Byrne enrolled in Sydney College Of The Arts to complete a Bachelor of Visual Arts in photography. He then hosted his first solo exhibition based on a trip he took to India. His career has since skyrocketed, and after years of travel, Byrne settled in Los Angeles in 2011 where he's focusing on his photographic practice.

We love the dynamic ways Byrne uses color blocking and geometry in his technique and how he incorporates concrete and palms alike! When he's not puttering around cities, you can find Byrne running around Griffith Park in LA.

AZ caught up with Byrne prior to his exhibition launch in New York City at Olsen Gruin Gallery on September 6th.

Art Zealous: What was your experience like growing up in Australia?

George Byrne: Pretty great. The older I get, the more I appreciate how lucky I was as a kid. I grew up in Sydney during a very different time, when the idea of accumulating wealth/assets was still a novelty to most people. In the'80s and '90s, Sydney felt like a more egalitarian, simple place. It wasn't the impossibly expensive, competitive, global mega-city it is now. I had an incredible sense of freedom and a very supportive and big family.

AZ: Bucket list item?

GB: To play with a Siberian tiger (could also be the last thing I do ☺).

AZ: Last thing you binge-watched?

GB: The Loudest Voice on Amazon Prime.

AZ: Favorite spot in LA?

GB: Griffith Park.

AZ: If you weren't a photographer, what would you do?

GB: Music, film or painting.

AZ: Walk us through a day in the life of George Byrne.

GB: My day-to-day life is pretty varied and depends mainly on what's due and whether I have an exhibition I'm working towards.

I try to get up and at it by 9:00am (breakfast is two slices of toast and some fruit for five years straight now). I recently got myself a studio at wilhardtnaud.com, which is a fantastic multi-purpose space in Chinatown Downtown Los Angeles.

During the day, I'm either working at the space or running around in the car and taking pictures. The roads in LA get clogged after 2:30pm, so the challenge is to get everything done by then.

AZ: How do you depict everyday surfaces and landscapes as painterly abstractions?

GB: With great difficulty! Basically, to take the pictures, I spend a lot of time analyzing the world around me, looking for interesting interactions (or alchemy), between color, shadow, shape and texture.

In a typical city landscape, with seasons and the sun shifting overhead, you have ever-changing conditions. This means a scene you may drive past at 9:00am will look completely different at 4:00pm. Colors soften and cool and shadows may creep in. Some pictures I take are only accessible for a 10-minute window on a particular day of a particular month. So the best thing to do is to keep moving and keep looking.

Assembling my pictures is the other half of the equation, and for this, I'm in the studio and exercising a completely different part of my brain.

AZ: Tell us about your upcoming exhibition, Exit Vision, at Olsen Gallery in NYC!

GB: Exit Vision is a group of works where the source material was shot in Miami, LA and Sydney. For this show, I fully embraced photo collage in a more abstract and expressive way, taking photo material from multiple locations and mashing it together with the hope of finding a balanced whole.

AZ: How do you collaborate with brand partners like Soho House or Wakeforest for instance?

GB: It's a bit of a mixed bag, but most of the collaborations I do come from people reaching out to me directly. If I think it fits, I'm always open to it.

The Soho House relationship is unique in that we have been working on things together for a few years now. Kate Bryan (who is the Head of Collections globally for Soho House) has been a terrific champion of mine, and thanks to her, I'm lucky enough to have my work in the Soho House permanent collections around the world. We are also working on a really cool install for the Miami Beach House during Art Basel later this year.

AZ: What's your creative process like incorporating color and geometry into your work?

GB: The role of color and geometry in my work is very intuitive for me, I've never taken a class in formal photography or composition, these things are all by feel. There is a lot of trial and error in finding the right parts.

AZ: What role does nature play in your aesthetic?

GB: Nature, as light, is the bedrock of everything. I'm looking at pigment, concrete as sand and trees to dot the landscape. I also shoot a lot of raw, natural landscape images that are a wonderful counter to the urban series I've been exhibiting the past few years.

AZ: Currently working on?

GB: Mainly the New York show opening in September.

AZ: What can we expect to see from you in the future

GB: I'm really looking forward to exhibiting in LA, Taiwan, London and Sydney for 2020/21. Best way for your readers to stay tuned is via Instagram (@george_byrne) or mailing list, which you guys can join at georgebyrne.com. Thanks y'all.

Follow George Byrne on Instagram and check out his upcoming show at Olsen Gruin at 30 Orchard Street in New York City on September 4 - October 6, 2019.

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