Out/About: George Byrne ‘Local Division’
George Byrne found himself living and working in Los Angeles quite by accident. As a photographic artist taking direct inspiration from the world that surrounds him he increasingly found his hometown of Sydney wasn’t providing the goods. Byrne moved to Los Angeles in 2010, after a short stint in New York City, and hasn’t looked back. ‘Local Division’ is his first major exhibition in Australia since the move and this collection of work powerfully interrogates his new locale.
Byrne spends most of his working day travelling the vast, sprawling metropolis in his car, seeking scenes from the urban landscape that prompt him to stop and document. He explains that there is a distinct combination of light, colour and form that he seeks but it is not purely these compositional requirements that make for a successful image. Byrne imbues his chosen scene with a sense of the place and time; sometimes isolated and airless or a moment of unexpected beauty, the poetry of everyday life.
A major influences on Byrne’s art has been the work of the Topographic Photo Movement that began in America in the mid 70s and saw pictures stripped of their artistic frills and reduced to simplified lines, reduced palette and the importance of the shadow as much as the object. These arrangements ensure that the work becomes more abstract as the artist attempts to solve puzzles in the arrangement of the pictorial elements “until they click.”
Byrne finds beauty in seemingly ordinary urban spaces set amongst essentially disposable architecture. A single figure, a pick up truck, fire hydrant or a brightly painted curb anchor the work but they are by no means the subject. Similarly Byrne rarely captures the gaze of the people he photographs, without the self-consciousness that comes with the realisation that they are being shot his figures become every man (they become us) and the developed photograph speaks of urban isolation and the unrelenting nature of city life. Byrne cleverly intersperses these works with lighter, summery vignettes, a string of brightly coloured balloons drift carelessly on the palest of blue skies and a lolly pink pool ring floats temptingly on an aquamarine swimming pool. He unifies the collection through a palette of sun-bleached pastels that skillfully confirms our perception of the city of angels.
George Byrne ‘Local Division’
Olsen Irwin Gallery
63 Jersey Road
Woollahra 2025 NSW
Mon – Fri: 10 – 6
Sat: 10 – 5
Sun: 11 – 5
10 – 28 February 2016
Credits: Courtesy of the artist George Byrne and Olsen Irwin Gallery
Words by Katrina Arent