Dublin based artist, Oisin Byrne, invites us into his studio once more,Â as we delve deeper intoÂ the dynamic nature of his various works and perspective. Juxtaposed against the unforgiving runways of London Fashion Week,Â Byrne offers us an intimate view into his high-profile collaboration with acclaimed designer, Jasper Conran. Stroke by stroke, Byrne shares his unedited story of creating without boundaries, Â while reminding us why we’re so damn enamored with him in the first place.
Interview by Lakenya Kelly
THE DAPIFER: Â So you’ve been working on some exciting projects since weÂ spoke last, tell me more about that? Oisin Byrne: It’s been quite busy, yes! I am currently a part of “The Temptation of AA Bronson” in Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. I made fabric prints in addition to illustratingÂ the runway itself for the Jasper Conran SS14 show. Â Also, my new portrait work has just opened in a group show at The Irish Museum of Modern Art.
That’s exciting? How did you and Jasper first meet? We met at the wedding of my friends Rebecca Guinness and Heron White.
How did the idea of collaborating together on a project come about? We had been talking about collaborating for some time. Initially we started with me just making painted patterns on the fabrics for the clothes. When Jasper invited me to make the set, I thought, “wow, what rare bravery.” He was totally unafraid to collaborate, and to let me share in his vision in a very unmediated and trusting way.
It’s definitely rare for a designer to give up that much creative control. With that much freedom, what helped you to steer your prints? The drawings I made for the collection were of people and of interiors. These combine and spill into each other, forming what I think of as an ‘intimate architecture’
We always seem to approach the topic of intimacy when referring to your work. Â How did you select the model for this project? What did you attempt to capture? The faces that animate the architecture, heading the colonnades, and populating the tiles of the runway are of the people that make up my thinking life, friends and fellow artists, including Jasper.
Can you describe the process of watching your prints become textiles? It’s something I’ve always wanted. Before the work with JC, I had just finished a set of “flag portraits”, which are large scale portraits, made in ink on cotton in flag form and currently on show at IMMA (The Irish Museum of Modern Art). I chose the form of a flag for these portraits because it is both intimate and declarative.
Was it surreal seeing your prints on both the models and the very runway they walked on? It seemed to be a very metaphysical statement with an “!” for emphasis. It was definitely visually overwhelming, and those dresses were the finale of the collection.Â That continuity or visual confusion between the garments and their environment really interests me- the spillages of a person into their environment, and ideas around the boundaries of our bodies.
Aside from the creative work, how was it working with a designer for such a public project at London Fashion Week? It was fast. Very fast. The clothes, the set, and the concept are worked on for months and the event itself is about nine minutes. And as someone involved in the making of it, you have a very short window to take it all in, to change from a maker into anÂ enjoying spectator.
Do you have any interest in continuing your collaborations in fashion?Â Could you ever see yourself as an independent designer yourself? Absolutely.Â I don’t see myself as a dress designer or maker, no. Jasper made these dresses and it is his hand in the cut of them. But costume, clothing, and the body in it’s environment all constitute a big part of my practice. The photo below shows a collaborative performance I made with AA Bronson in Ireland this year. We commissioned Bless in Berlin to knit costumes from Shetland wool and hi-vis material. In daylight they appear quite mundane and functional garments for keeping warm, but in the flash of the camera, they become luminous like a byzantine icon.
Our latest print issue is titledÂ , BRAVO, BRAVO. It’s an introspective look into performers and performances. How is this process executed in your work? Performance for me is about risk. It is a testing ground, to step outside our ordinary behaviour with the “excuse” of the stage or new set of rules. Performance produces a state of exception- which often then extends into or permeates ordinary life.
What does an ideal ‘performance’ consist of for you? A good performance, I think, makes a rift in reality, a delineated space in which different rules apply. This can do any number of things including redefining our rules of self-governance, generating new relational possibilities within a group, or allowing us to think and act in ways we may have before that forbidden.
How did critics react to this most recent collaborative work? The reaction to Jasper’s collection and to my contribution has overwhelmingly positive. You put your neck on the chopping block in a particular way with fashion – the critical response is pretty much instant. Luckily, we’ve kept our heads.
Should we expect more Oisin Byrne prints strutting down runways?That door is definitely open.