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George Byrne | VOGUE ONLINE

Vogue Magazine 31 May 2017

Angelica Xidias

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With George Byrne’s latest exhibition Color Field set to open on June 3 at Woollahra’s Olsen Annexe, the Sydney-born artist gives Vogue an insight into his greatest inspirations and motivations.

In his most recent body of work, Byrne strives to “reclassify urban spaces” through a combination of composition and colour perception, explaining, “I’m not really looking to tell a story, I’m looking to create a feeling.”

“My inspiration for this series is mainly the urban landscapes of Southern California and Palm Desert and far Northern NSW,” he says — a mix so seemingly diverse it becomes inherently intriguing. 

When quizzed on the meaning of composition, the artist described his work as a “compositional exercise devoted to capturing a formal ideal of beauty” and calls on the influence of the New Topographics movement.

“With the camera I’m searching for that elusive sweet spot where elements align, click, and you get that alchemy. I love it in part as it is so hard to pinpoint, people write about why things work aesthetically, but I tend to think ultimately the whole thing is a mystery.”

Although Byrne moved to LA in 2010 to pursue art, he later turned to photography. His unique vision stems from his love of European Modernism and American Abstract Expressionists and his ability to “blend some really key influences from the painting world with that of the photography world.”

The artist cites painters David Hockney and Jeffrey Smart, along with photographers Stephen Shore and William Eggleston as some of his greatest influences.

“They emerged in the 60s and 70s and were the first artists to really embrace photography as a fine art medium, pioneering the genre of very stark, empty urban landscapes.”

 So where does that Sydney connection come into play? Byrne was introduced to Tim Olsen of the Olsen Gallery in 2014 – who showcases Byrne’s work in both his Sydney and New York locations – by fellow Australian artist, Paul Davies.

“Tim has been very supportive and been really involved in championing my work. It’s been an incredibly rewarding partnership as I’ve been able to elevate my work onto a new level and to a new audience and I’m able to come home more often,” he explains.

Having amassed quite the following on Instagram, Byrne describes it as “an invaluable tool in bringing fans/followers of your work into the day-to-day process."

“I also think I was lucky in that my work plays well on the format. It’s simple, colour and linear and easy to consume on a little backlit screen, like a hard-boiled lolly for your eyes.”

See it for yourself @george_byrne

Color Field opens June 3 at Olsen Annexe.


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