Saturday 31 May – Saturday 2 August 2008
Moray Art Centre is honoured to feature this intimate retrospective of the work of John Byrne, including work generously loaned from private, regional and national collections, as the inaugural exhibition in the new gallery. The artist has closely informed and supported the exhibition, personally selecting many of the works as well as loaning new work from his own private collection, Joie de Vivre (Portrait of Honor & Xavier).
The exhibition displays the breadth and strength of a painting practice spanning nearly forty years, demonstrating Byrne’s special and unique contribution to Scottish Art. Byrne studied painting at Glasgow School of Art from 1958 – 1963 and was hugely encouraged by their strong tradition of figurative painting, subsequently traveling to Italy where he viewed Giotto’s frescoes and the paintings of Duccio and Cimabue, ultimately honing a masterful representational talent. Byrne’s expansive and diverse career has also seen his work reach wide audiences in the form of record covers for the Beatles, Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly. Byrne arguably remains best known for his surreal ‘faux-naif’ images famously produced under the pseudonym, ‘Patrick’, one of the finest examples of which is the monumental American Boy on loan to this exhibition from Glasgow Museums.
Featuring the robust and poignant work, Portrait of the Artist Steven Campbell from Paisley Museum & Art Galleries, the exhibition also displays highlights from the collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery including Self-Portrait in a Flowered Jacket and Portrait of Billy Connolly. The latter work is made more acutely relevant to this exhibition by the inclusion of two works from Connolly’s own private collection. The selection demonstrates two distinctive polars of Byrne’s painting practice – grand and figurative; illustrative and surreal. In a similar way, Flak, a recent and powerful self-portrait may be contrasted sharply with a work produced in the same year, Suzi, Green Dress, a playful character study for the National Theatre of Scotland’s adaptation of the momentous TV series, Tutti-Frutti, which Byrne conceived, wrote and designed.