A Catholic Episode
VILMA GOLD is pleased to announce an exhibition of new works by Nicholas Byrne.
Drawing on copper, linen and paper, Nicholas Byrne’s recent paintings disperse emergent figures amongst a restless ground. Made on a scale relating directly to the body, these works are reminiscent of an era in British painting in which the figure is brutalised. Byrne’s paintings butt up clean, bright planes of colour against aged surfaces holding torn and delineated incarnations. The paintings hinge upon offering up a series of tensions, or flirtations perhaps;- the pure and the profane, lucidity and doubt, confession and secrecy, innocence and experience. Picked up, discarded and remembered elsewhere as the paintings take shape, Byrne’s fidelity to these vibrations opens the possibility of entering into an ornate visual play with the works.
Arriving from within a particular history of taste, Byrne sources and mills a cast of characters -imagery associated with having ‘exotic’ or ‘liberal’ tastes – to cast them in a febrile drama: A fragment of Chinoiserie for example, comes to resemble the Commedia dell’Art’s famous Pierrot, elsewhere an ornamental dial kicks out like a leg. The notion arises that Byrne is fore- grounding emergent sensibilities- the tasteful, the exotic, the catholic, or the figure as free as the bricoleur- and in doing so laying out his group of works to become a chorus making an ode. Here ‘A Catholic Episode’ could suggest the thrill of being ‘over-come’ by a sudden collapse in disposition, or point to the migrating elements- potentials and places perhaps- that form sensibility as a whole.
Embodied in the loops and coils of his painted winding forms, Byrne’s mining of Modernity’s underbelly, - its excesses, overflows and contradictions, has functioned to open a sinuous developmental tract in his work. In this regard his index of graphic motifs play a second- ary role, forming a potent locus directing the event of growth and erasure by which each painting evolves. A black husk of a doll on a blue pastel ground for example, provides a charge for the movement of quick, scouring marks- it seems to function as a factory; a gut- tural tract almost- consuming, digesting and re-distributing shape and colour throughout the body of the painting. As form bubbles out and quickly dissolves again it becomes ap- parent that the figure/ground opposition works here as a permeable skin. Byrne’s enigmatic paintings mark the gap between saying and not saying, between the want to confess all and something more private. They act as configurations tracking the forms that somehow sur- vive, that just slip out, episodically- to quote Jasper Johns,
‘The final suggestion, the final statement, has to be not a deliberate statement but a helpless statement. It has to be what you can’t avoid saying.’