Daniel Hewson recently interviewed Hugh Byrne ahead of his upcoming show ‘Point and Line’. The exhibition opening March 13, is a collaborative project between Barnard and Ebony Curated and will present new works by this dynamic emerging abstract painter.
You have spoken about how ‘attractive geometric forms’ directly inspired by architecture influence your practice. What architecture in particular?
My work used to be largely influenced by buildings and the negative/positive spaces they occupied. Perhaps because they were the largest objects and by dominating the landscape were the first things to grab my attention. As I actively continue to examine my surroundings I have found myself drawn towards the micro details of compositions, line and textures that can be found.
What about ‘El Lissitzky’ inspires you?
By making use of basic forms and multiple perspectives he was able to create environments in his work that created tension and made a statement. El Lissitzky was able to provoke thought through the combination of shapes, line, colour and movement. These ideas and the relationship between 2D and 3D is something which I too try to achieve through my work.
When did you start painting with latex?
For the last 5 years or so. Before that I had been working with household enamels and resin. With latex paints I am able to rework sections and alter colours faster whilst maintaining a similar effect.
What exactly is latex paint made of?
Latex paints are all paints which use polymers as binders. So this includes acrylic and pva.
What inspires you about Piet Mondrian’s work?
Mondrian and the others in the De Stijl movement aimed to break things down into their simplest forms. Their focus on representing harmony through balance and symmetry by creating a visual language is something I have drawn inspiration from in my own work by similarly reducing forms to geometric shapes and working with a limited palette.
From another angle, a lot of what I find inspiring in architecture and design has been influenced by the De Stijl movement in some way or another.
What in particular drives your interest in abstraction?
Working in an abstract manner frees you up but at the same time restricts you by setting rules to work within. I am drawn to the problem solving that this creates.
Line, form, colour and the way they interact with each other is what I am primarily interested in. Being able to work in a way that is not representational allows me to focus on those points.
The more I work on and create a visual language of my own the more I find myself becoming attached to certain shapes and colours and how they have become more personal to me. As much as I am sentimental about this I embrace the way in which abstraction allows the viewer to bring in their own interpretations.
How has film, sculpture and photography influenced your artistic practice?
I have always found sculpture inspiring, I think it is the study of the material and discovering its different possibilities that fascinate me. It also has a way of interacting with the space around which it is placed in that is hard to replicate with painting.
Interestingly, I have always been drawn to film for the colours that directors have been able to capture whilst with photography I am drawn to the black and white images.
After university I lived in Asia and didn’t have the space to paint or sculpt so I picked up photography. The area I lived in was overpopulated and dense and this provided ample photo opportunities. The alleys were often dark with harsh beams of sunlight which led to highly contrasted shots. It is probably what first led to me being inspired by architecture.
Today I use photography to document my day to day explorations. I mainly photograph things on the street that I find interesting like fencing, moldy walls and interesting shadows. I’m sure working within the limits of the camera frame and being constantly aware of composition and balance has bled into my studio practice.
Where did you travel to and how did these experiences affect your artistic practice?
I have been fortunate to do quite a bit of traveling in the past 10 years. I think the biggest thing about travel for me is being out of your comfort zone. I usually end up on public transport or walking a lot and this forces you to be aware of your surroundings. You never know what will inspire you next and being in a place that is different to the norm allows you to be open to new ideas and thoughts. You are able to see things from a different perspective which can either build upon your current concept or lead it in a new direction.
What meanings do the colours in your composition have to you?
In my first series of paintings I wanted to work within a very limited colour palette. I worked that way for quite a while and at the moment am happy with the level with which that study has been explored and so have started introducing new colours into my work.
I often change and repaint areas of colour on the canvas until the painting feels balanced. I’m not sure why I choose certain colours over others. Maybe in the future I’ll look back and it’ll be obvious what my colour choices have been influenced by but for the moment there is no direct reference and all of them I mix on the spot in the studio.
Materials also include: concrete, powder-coated metal, maple and walnut. This is very intriguing and adds a vibrant layer to your practice.
My interest in working with different materials originally began with what they represented and how they could be used together to balance a piece. Learning about new materials is time consuming but as I started to discover new techniques I become more and more interested in the material itself and finding out what the possibilities of each were.
Through your use of materials there is a vivid exploration into the role of ‘the artisan’ which is embodied in the history of artistry. Art history argues that the role of the artist only came into repute following the Renaissance in Italy. Prior to this, artists were viewed as highly skilled craftsmen. Can you please share your views on this aspect of visual art?
The ideas of what constitutes an artist is always changing. Does the artwork exist for itself or is it something “useful”? To what degree was the artist involved? Today the lines are more blurred than ever and the artist cannot be pinned down as one thing or another.
As mentioned, my sculpture especially, is quite material focused. My paintings are stretched, painted and framed by myself too which indicates that I value the importance of process in creating an artwork.
I personally find the focus on material and technique important to my work but I feel this is only one part of my art and not necessarily reliant on it.
For you as a practicing artist what are the differences and/or similarities of fine art and visual art?
Fine art originally described activities that were undertaken for the love of nature and to derive aesthetic pleasure. I definitely am aware of the aesthetic within my work and it is something which drives my day to day approach to art making.
Defining the differences between visual art and fine art is becoming harder and harder to categorize or pigeon hole and there is no hardline separating the two maybe like there once was. Today there is a lot more to being an artist than the romantic idea we are familiar with. I find myself involved with photography, woodwork, sculpture, painting, website creation and managing finances.