Gerard Byrne has firmly established himself as one of Ireland’s leading contemporary artists. Critical acclaim and the growing popularity of his work are a just reflection of his ability to capture on canvass critical aspects of the modern Irish condition. His work depicts both the natural beauty and heritage of the country and the contraditions of a former colony that is now a rapidly modernising independent nation. Gerard’s characteristic “plein air”style applied to landscape and figurative work reveal a subtly haunting visualisation of elements of the country’s dramatic social and cultural transformation in recent years. His style and choice of subjects celebrate the continuing beauty of many parts of his native Dublin, particularly Dalkey where he now lives, while at the same time reflecting a distinct anxiety about the costs borne by the people and city itself in this process of transformation. Whether in his coastal and urban landscapes, scenes of Dublin social life, still life or depiction of locations outside Dublin, such as New York, one of Byrne’s unique qualities is to represent the past and present simultaneously. In every painting he shows both what is now and what is in danger of being lost or has been lost already. But it is not simply different times that are brought together in a single image or scene in his work but also different places. Byrne’s Dublin could be Italy or the French countryside. His scenes of contemporary Dublin pub and party life are Dublin but they could also be New York or Paris. His New York might be Paris or Amsterdam. It is maybe in the contrast between Byrne’s paintings and drawings – with colour and without – that we get a sense of both the difference and connection between new and old, surface and essence, one place and another. Gerard Byrne’s unique blend, near kaleidoscope, of style and subject explain his emergence as a rising force in Irish art and increasingly internationally. This latest collection marks further progress in his development as a significant talent and will certainly add further to his already considerable reputation.
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