INTERVIEW:OISIN BYRNE

paper ball_oisin byrne

words by Lakenya Kelly                                                                                                        photos compliments of Oisin Byrne

We sit down alongside artist, Oisin Byrne,  to explore the mixed mediums of life, culture, and the individual. Byrne’s work which spans across the sinews of visual and performance mediums, intrigues us with it honestly , just as much as it captivates with its intimate portrayal of each of us- hidden in the ink.


 THE DAPIFER: When was your first time coming to the U.S.?

It was when I was 17 or 18. I don’t know why, but I told my parents I was going to Wexford, which is the Irish countryside. I went to NYC and have returned every year since, including to do projects at Princeton and Cornell.

Is there one inspirational memory from your childhood that sticks out?

I remember dressing up. A lot.

Was there a point where you thought, “I’m going to become an artist”?

That’s always a difficult question. I don’t even know if you do “decide”, without being pedantic. When did I admit I wanted to be an artist? When I got accepted into Art College.

What was the first piece you created?

I made films all the time as a kid. I would boss my sister and my cousins about and we would work really hard and be exhausted. Thinking about it now, it had the same urgency I experience in art making now.

Where do you find inspiration?

Moving. I do my best thinking when I am walking or on an airplane.

A bulk of your work pivots around people. How do you choose to portray the individual?

I do tend to see the best in people. But then, I only paint people I am comfortable with – usually my friends who are usually other artists. Four or six or more hours sitting with a person, or in my case, standing with a sitter. It is an intensified and unusual chunk of time to spend with one person, examining one person, without leaving the room, sometimes without speaking. For that reason, the whole situation requires and produces trust.

You regularly work across various mediums. If you had to choose one, what would it be? 

For a long time, black ink. I love a strong line and a drawing that achieves a lot with not so many marks. But I am now really rediscovering film making. I’m collaborating with another artist, Gary Farrelly, on some low (or no) budget films. One of them titled, Radical Science just won an award. I’m also writing the script for a longer film called GLUE, that will be released sometime later.

What artist influence or inspire your work?

Werner Herzog, Sophie Fiennes, Jean Cocteau, Nijinsky, Matisse, James Turrell, Samuel Beckett, John Waters. The influence isn’t always linear.

What’s the most transformative project you’ve completed thus far?

The Paper Ball was big in terms of cast,  especially for such a short film. I had over 100 performers/ participants, all dressed in paper gowns which we co- produced, and subsequently co-destroyed during the performance. It was filmed on 16mm Bolex cameras by a brilliant cinematographer, Andrew Legge.

What does ‘art’ mean to you?

It is an urgency, a potential and a risk. And it puts a really important value on the apparently useless.

Do you see a connection between art and fashion? ⁃ Do you ever attempt to expose  that in your own work?

Absolutely, and quite often. I am really inspired by wearable or performed art objects like Oiticica’s Parangolés or Franz Erhard Walther’s work. For a performance piece I just made in collaboration with AA Bronson, we used these incredible costumes specially made by Bless in Berlin. The results will be shown in Witte de With in Rotterdam in September.

How would you define your personal style ?

Very variable. I get all dressed up and then I dishevel myself.

What fashion desingers most reflect your work?

I like Maison Martin Margiela, a lot. And Comme des Garcons.

If you could change one thing about people, what would that be?

Aggressive/oppressive normality.

What are you future plans for your work?

My portraits are being shown this October in a group show called In the Line of Beauty at The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA),curated by Rachel Thomas. The portraits are large and on fabric, and hang like banners or flags. One of my favourite writers – Alan Hollinghurst – is writing the text for the show.