Gerard Byrne is The Master of Form
Gerard Byrne (62 years-old, former electrician) was born in Dublin, Ireland and before he was the “Master of Form,” his creative journey to reach success is distinctly intriguing. During his early years, his father (Brendan) worked a while as a self-employed customs agent and his mother (Kathleen) stood at home with a family of six. He attended various schools, however, the disadvantage of his dyslexia prevented him from focusing on his studies, but through art, he learned so much more about life.
Before his art became adorned on many walls across the world, the first ever job he received was at the age of 14. That’s the same age he risked everything by dropping out of school. He was working at Clery’s (a landmark department store on O’Connell Street) where he was a lift boy for 4 years. He wanted to attend an art college, but after an official attempt, he got refused (due to his lack of sufficient qualifications). That didn’t stop him succeeding. He listened to his parents advice to get a ‘real job,’ learned a trade to become an electrician, which led him to become a lighthouse technician. Despite him enduring dyslexia, he proved he can live a normal life by mastering a trade from 1978-1982. Living independently wasn’t enough for him because he wanted to broaden his horizons, living his best life.
After leaving his job as a lighthouse technician, he planned to travel to Australia in a vintage Volkswagen camper van with his best friend, Fran. They traveled across Europe and when their visas to Iran were refused (because of the Iran-Iraq War), they were stuck in Turkey. That’s when they went to Athens, sold the van in Greece, and took a flight to Australia. That already sounds exhausting. Eventually, both of them got jobs as flying electricians (installing generators in aboriginal settlements. His journey back home was heading to Asia, Indonesia, Burma, India, and Russia, then he took the train and a flight back from Moscow. His background traveling is truly revealing in his art and he was willing to risk no longer living on an expected paycheck, just to explore life.
While he continued working his regular job, he desired to pick up a paintbrush. As a result, he planned on traveling to America, with the hopes of being a full-time artist. For approximately two years, he was a workhorse of an electrician in New York. He spent all of his savings on a cheap house as planned, then dedicated his time to drawing and painting. Often, he’d observe people around different environments, especially the local market, painting. Fortunate enough, he was fed by local traders (who he became friends with), receiving fresh fruit and vegetables on his doorsteps. Moments like that to be grateful of change the atmosphere and he was well-deserving of meeting good friends.
It was becoming harder to financially support himself, so Gerard once again became an electrician. After nearly dying from an electric shock, he didn’t want to live life not following his true passion, painting. In 1989, he traveled to Germany after packing his paint and canvas, where he finally became a full-time artist. He’d observe the streets of Berlin, painting the scenery for a solo show of his art. His artwork got accepted into the “George Gallery” in Dublin as well as other galleries.
Again, he returned to America with the full intention of painting, but while living and observing people, architecture, and nature in the Spanish Harlem, (being a white European), he was believed to be an undercover cop. His work was presented to the Jo Rain Gallery and in 1996, he exhibited his work in the “Harrison Gallery.” That led him to taking the initiative by running the gallery for approximately 2 years. In the overwhelming dilemma of being a gallery owner or artist, he chose to be an artist.
Always traveling, he went to Dingle, (which is the West Coast of Ireland) to find time alone and inspiration. There, he’d paint the seascapes of Dingle Peninsula for approximately 3 months. After his breakup, he lost his home and studio in Sandycove. Back to having not much, he was then offered a place to stay in Killiney (where he lived for 3 years). He stood in a basement and the house, as a coincidence had a beautiful sea view. Then he became good friends with the house owner, John.
It was 2005 when he bought a house in Dalkey. He wanted a house that celebrated creative art with poetry readings, music nights, classical music events, and jazz concerts, but it officially became an art gallery, being named, “The Art House.” Throughout time, he’s proven to have an authentic love for art, willing to do anything to follow his dreams and that’s why “The Art House” became popular. In 2008, he met his future wife, Agata (a landscaper), but a waitress at the time. In August, 2013, he opened the Gerard Byrne Studio in Dalkey. Wherever he traveled his Agata was around to emotionally support. In 2014, they moved to London… The following year, they moved to Brighton, where they could always look at the vanishing points of the sea town architecture of the Victorian era.
Once 2017 hit, they lived in the United Kingdom and Ireland. November of that year, he opened the “Gerard Byrne Studio” in a new location in Ranelagh, Dublin 6. His art studio is in the heart of Dublin’s Ranelagh village, not too far away from St Stephen’s Green in Dublin City Centre. The “Gerard Byrne Studio” is (a four-room Fine Art gallery and artist studio) home to one of Ireland’s leading contemporary artists.
The impressive, self-taught artist known as Gerard adapted to many environments, made the sacrifice of choosing his art over a regular job, made friends along the way, and found a supportive wife. He’s a plein air artist, painting heritage architecture, horticulture, and civilians on the streets. The conversations he has while painting are rightfully incorporated in his art. While painting outdoors, he observes life, receiving compliments, which is an elevating experience for him. From his work, you can see still lifes, figurative paintings, and landscapes. He incorporates his life in his art from the diversity of people he paints, representing his foreign travels. He spent time listening to other people play instruments, eat, talk, and laugh, which is also incorporated in his art. The smallest details people don’t pay attention to about themselves, Gerard notices, placing it on his canvas. Looking at his art gives viewers a welcoming feeling.
When you look at Byrnes acrylic and oil paintings, you notice his versatility from getting the viewers to focus on geometric shapes, rich colors, fine brushstrokes, and contrasts of light and shade. The “Master of Form” can paint extraordinarily well. If you focus solely on his contrasts of light and shade in his paintings, his artwork would still be eye-catching, but you get everything in one view. He’s called a modern impressionist and his artwork is visible all across the world, especially in Ireland. Some places his artwork can be seen at are the “Irish Government’s Art Collection,” the Citadelle Art Museum in Texas,” and the “Irish Embassies in Singapore and Beijing.”
Often, Gerard tends to touch the canvas, receiving a feeling like it’s communicating to him. The canvas has a voice, a body, mind, and soul, which Gerard reveals. He’s called the “Master of Form” because of his ongoing drive to push himself beyond his last projects while already showcasing his eye-catching capabilities. Any subject he sees can be (twisted, contorted, symmetrically reversed, etc.) into an exaggerated appearance, into a normal appearance, and an optical illusion. You just wouldn’t know how he may paint a subject next as it relates to the outdoors, but once you see it, you’ll want to get your hands on them.
One painting he’s done in particular called the “Lobster Out” appears like a man holding his head up in shame, hesitant to eat the lobster, after guzzling down his beverage. The black suit he wears is textured, appearing like it’s painted in a 5-star restaurant and the ten-legged crustacean’s antennae are dramatically protruding outward like a cartoonish form. Although the antennae appears like an exaggerated caricature style, it still has a realistic image. This painting alone proves that he can manipulate any subject, regardless of what it is, then create a different perspective with the proper illusion of form.
“Lobster Out” oil on canvas. © 2019. All Rights Reserved.
“Shoulder Bacon” is a humorous, yet serious work of art. A chef and a breathing pig are unexpected to be seen in a painting. While it’s unexpected, it’s pleasing to the eyes. The painting of the chef with the pig wrapped around his shoulders shows that he’s thought about the life of animals being eaten for the pleasures of humans. Also, the fact that he keeps the pig alive in the painting, can make the viewer no longer want to eat bacon, which is probably the message he wanted to get across. It’s depressing, but still with a lot of life, knowing the pig is seconds away from being someone else’s meal.
“Shoulder Bacon” oil on canvas. © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
This artwork is called “Shoreditch Boys.” Charcoal is a medium used that is very messy, but Gerard is so experienced, he actually makes the medium look clean. The finished product showcases how he crossed the boundaries of hyperrealism. Gerard added people in the same artwork as zebras and made the engaging background (which could’ve been where the acrylic paint was used) look like a photo editing and manipulation software. One person in the work is visible smoking a cigarette between two men with shades on the right side. There’s a wild animal, which could be domestic between the men with shades. Three citizens on the left appear to be not having such a good time like the people on the right run the place. The person on the bottom left has his head tilted like he fell asleep from being tranquilized, but what’s the noticeable are the lively, two zebras.
Shoreditch is actually a district in the East End of London, forming the southern part of the London Borough of Hackney. At this location, Gerard must’ve saw a homeless man and incorporated him sleeping in the painting. Maybe he wasn’t homeless, but sleeping on a train or bench. Shoreditch must have wild animals nearby because Gerard is known for incorporating people and objects he sees around him into his art.
The fact that Gerard didn’t make the people react directly at the zebras give the piece a deeper meaning. Zebras are known to aggressively kick other zebras to death and viciously bite any human that gets too close. The amount of confidence embodied in this work is ridiculously entertaining. It represents fearlessness, nature, and unity. To be around wild animals and not be petrified of getting injured or worse, is a courageous state of mind. It’s almost arguably like a utopian world, minus the cigarette that the one man is smoking.
“Shoreditch Boys” charcoal & acrylic on canvas. © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
“Green is the New Black” is an oil and acrylic painting on a canvas (at 39 3/8 x 59 1/8 inches and 40 1/8 x 59 7/8 inches, when framed). The first thing to point out is that the painting has the obvious optical illusion of vibrant green leaves protruding pass the picture frame, creating an atmosphere like you’re more around nature. It’s like a glimpse into a dream you want to see more of, but you keep having the same dream at the same time duration. It’s hard not to love because not too many people can say they despise nature. The leaves have different hues when you carefully look at them and appears wet in some sections, without a dramatic dripping effect.
“Green is the New Black” oil & acrylic border on canvas. © 2019. All Rights Reserved.
When I look at “The Golden Touch”, I think about why the top of the liquor bottle is only gold, but then notice how there’s a gold substance other guests are drinking in clear glasses. So the gold touch must be the liquor. It’s another metaphor when you notice the man in the middle background comfortably resting the back of his head on his hand. It must be the type of liquor that makes people right at home.
One thing I think about when I see this oil and acrylic painting is the word, “Victory”. There’s a group of friends celebrating their wealth with the finest drinks that money can buy. Everyone is perfectly relaxed in this piece. The sunglasses on the person in the background to the right must represent that all he sees is success. He must spend quality time around only wealthy people in order to only see gold.
“The Golden Touch” oil & acrylic border on canvas © 2020. All Rights Reserved.
In “Eve,” the oil painting looks like a classy woman got bored of showing off and now enjoys to get intoxicated. It’s like she gets her hands dirty in the mud to feed the horse. She doesn’t look to be satisfied in the painting, but has a numb face, probably intentionally done. Her grey hair tells another story from how long she had to live such a life trying to please other like the two aggressive looking men in the background.
This painting is like the animals are invited to an all-exclusive party with their own waiters and waitresses. I can’t help, but notice, the artists use of vivid hues like the grey hair popping out from the lady, to the flesh tones, to the white section of fur on the dog, to the liquor brand, and to the white business shirts, and tints of lights in the eyes. The shadings from the shadows capture the effect of light and darkness perfectly, even though the painting has a background that looks like a green screen effect and a dream. What’s uncanny about the painting is that all of the people are looking ahead as if they’re rich, but horribly ashamed.
“Eve” oil & acrylic border on canvas © 2020. All Rights Reserved.
Painting to Gerard is like saying, “God bless you heart.” It’s up to the viewers interpretation to determine what the painting means. According to the Gerard Byrne Artist website, he says in a video, “The way I view painting like a fortune teller. He puts the cards on the table, and then somebody reads them and they get a totally different story from the picture.” Selected out of thousands of artists, Gerard participated in the show, “Landscape Artist of the Year 2017. Here’s a clip of the show from Vimeo: Gerard Byrne/ Sky Landscape of the Year 2017. In 2019, Byrnes made yet another accomplishment, receiving a cordial invitation (from the Embassy of Ireland in Singapore) to spend a month as the “Artist in Residence” in the “Singapore Botanic Gardens.” Also, the Department of Foreign Affairs supported the decision.
As far as his future projects, he intends on one day painting works internationally, which was put on pause due to the Covid 19 outbreak. Also, due to the pandemic, in 2020, the Gerard Byrne studio transitioned to an online gallery. Accessible on Gerard Byrne Studio, you can experience the 360 interactive, virtual atmosphere, accessible 24/7 for everyone. There’s one experience that’s called the “360 Gallery Virtual Tour: Pause for Harmony Exhibition" and another tour called the 360 Gallery Virtual Tour: Botanical Fusion Exhibition. For a while, he has wanted to paint the cherry blossom season in Japan. He wants to continue traveling to places and possibly networking with people in New York, Paris and Sydney, while staying artistically connected with Asia.
If you’d like to contact Gerard Byrne and/or get updated on his latest work, here’s his information:
Byrne, Gerard. Gerard Byrne. 2021.
Byrne, Gerard. Artnet. Gerard Byrne. 2021.
Byrne, Gerard. Vimeo. Gerard Byrne/ Sky Landscape Artist of The Year 2017. 2018.
Byrne, Gerard. Whytes. Gerard Byrne. 2021.
Byrne, Gerard. Facebook. Gerard Byrne Artist. 2021.
Byrne, Gerard. Twitter. Gerard Byrne Artist. 2021.
Byrne, Gerard. Instagram. gerard_yrne_artist. 2021.
Byrne, Gerard. Linkedin. Gerard Byrne. 2021.