You are currently viewing The Zealous Set | George Byrne

The Zealous Set | George Byrne

Art Zealous contributor Alexandra Fanning talks with Australian photographer George Byrne about the artist’s new home environment and muse for his first monograph, Los Angeles.

In our series, The Zealous Set, we talk to the artists catching our attention about what they’re creating, watching, reading, and what they’re being inspired by. This week we chat with George Byrne, whose large-scale photographs depict the beauty behind everyday banal, about when inspiration hits, a new Eagles documentary, and his upcoming book, Post Truth.

Can you walk us through your process? How do you find such perfect minimalist settings?

My process is essentially staying alert to my surroundings and looking for a seed of an idea in the world around me. I take a lot of photographs and more recently since I’ve also been experimenting with assemblage, so I also keep my eyes out for “sections” of photographs that I can add to something I’m already working on. There is this mysteriously beautiful, often unsettling emptiness to the LA urban street life. Its raw aesthetics are all washed out pastel planes, run down 80’s architecture. It’s kind of playful and post-apocalyptic all at once. I think it’s primarily the light, the air and the buildings and the fact that there are so few pedestrians that you get to see things really clearly and unimpeded. It’s a strangely beautiful place.

What does a day in your studio look like? Do you set out looking for your next best shot first thing or do you plan out where you’ll be shooting that day? Does it come to you organically or is there research involved?

My day-to-day is pretty varied depending on what work I have due and where I am in the exhibition cycle, but normally I try to get down to the studio by 9am. During the day I’m either there working on pictures or admin stuff (heads-up all budding artists there is an enormous amount of admin in this game). I’m basically either working towards a series for a show at a gallery, or printing work for private sales. The taking of pictures is mostly a very random process, I get hit with creative inspiration at odd times (usually after coffee) and try to keep my medium format film cameras in the car at all times. 

George Byrne, “Hotel Pool #1” (2015) image courtesy of the artist.

Tell us more about your inspirations – how do you engage with these concepts and how do they come together for you in your work? 

I certainly draw from a bunch of different inspirations. Photographically speaking, I started out most inspired by people like Walker Evans, Dorothy Lang, Helen Becher, Luis Baltz, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore (amongst many others). These people were all formative throughout the 20th century in pushing photography into a more creative realm, away from classical landscape & portrait work. The abstract part of my process that has evolved over the past 5-10 years was heavily influenced by painters like Richard Deibenkorn, Matisse & David Hockney. Even older modernist painters like Mondrian and Malevich have played a part in my interest in really minimal use of space and more raw explorations of composition, form and color. 

Hence, my contemporary work is a collision of ideas that has evolved as my skills developed in photo assemblage and large-scale printing. How I engage all these influences is very much subliminal as they end up forming a big soup that I scoop from… I guess it’s in color selection of compositional balance etc.  

George Byrne, “Temple Street” (2015) image courtesy of the artist.

What are you listening to, reading or binge-watching at the moment?

I just finished this brilliant documentary on the band the Eagles called The History Of The Eagles. So good! I’m reading Maya Angelo and listening to every song ever written on shuffle courtesy of Spotify. 

How are you staying connected with other artists and creatives these days?

Mostly over IG and text like normal I guess. It’s great to see artists still working away and making things. We can’t let this pandemic dominate every realm of our lives and I think art and music is a great way to keep in touch with joy and inspiration.

I was very lucky to have my book project penciled in for 2020 prior to the pandemic so I was able to work hard throughout the year.

What do you have on the horizon in terms of shows, new works, projects and collaborations, or otherwise?

I’m very excited to have my first ever exhibition in Mumbai this month (September at Akara Art Gallery) plus I’m in the process of releasing my book – Post Truth.

Cover art for George Byrne’s upcoming photography book, “Post Truth” image courtesy of the artist.
Image courtesy of the artist.
Image courtesy of the artist.