Oisín Byrne’s work considers how the self can be expressed or contained in the many layers that make up a person. The audience enters the gallery to a space where colour, sound, language, and texture collide. Standing on a carpet illustrating the edges of Byrne’s notebooks, with fluorescent post-it note tabs poking out, marking pages, and busily mapping the artist’s thoughts, there is a sense of exuberance, generosity and sharing. The sensory and affective exchange presents a queer performativity that is at once empowering and fallible.
Language is at the core of his practice and his notebooks are the starting point for a new series, Volumes, which are a key part of this exhibition. The notebooks hold Byrne’s experimental thoughts and private musings, yet rather than overwhelm the audience with their contents, he presents us with images of their covers, marked with clues to what they might contain. Phrases such as Act Natural, Waiting for approval waiting for permission, She declared, or My first question, extend a playful hand to join in. The images of the notebook covers are enlarged and then exposed to further elaborations as Byrne draws, paints and smudges onto the surface of the magnified prints in what Byrne describes as a ‘night-time activity’, an automatic mark-making response to these containers of his ideas.
The painting Having a Coke with You is made in reference to Frank O’Hara’s seminal and eponymous poem. The warm glow of this painting reflects the colours of a self-portrait, also included in the exhibition – Byrne’s face peering out from the brightly painted marks that delineate his features. Another painting places the hand of the artist in a cloud of white gesso paint, yet another presents the animated blooms from Byrne’s Cut Flower series.
These works sit with a video of an animated fox emoji singing one of Byrne’s songs, It Could Be Worse. The outline of the artist’s head is seen as a shadow. Fragile in its precarious optimism, the video presents a pop-style doubling; Byrne is performing but not quite visibly present.
A publication will accompany the exhibition with texts by Oisín Byrne, Wayne Koestenbaum, Declan Long, Sam Moore and Eva Wilson.
Oisín Byrne (b.1983) is an Irish artist, writer and film-maker based in London. Byrne’s work has been exhibited internationally in institutions including Salzburger Kunstverein, Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art, Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and Princeton University. Byrne’s writing has been published in books by Pilot Press, MA Bibliotheque, Eros Press and Bookworks.
Courtesy of the artist and Amanda Wilkinson, London