(1) As a child, do you recall a significant moment when you felt truly affected or inspired by any particular artwork or artist?
I don’t think so, growing up in a rural area in Ireland I didn’t have easy access to art galleries and I lived a fair distance from Dublin and so I was 18 when I first visited an art gallery. There was a show titled Northern Nocturnes in the National Gallery of Ireland in 2005. This exhibition consisted of paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists and I remember being completely captivated with some of the Rembrandt paintings on display, I had never seen them in real life or outside of books before that. As a child I spent a lot of time drawing and I remember winning a trophy in a local art competition when I was 5. Drawing was just something that I always enjoyed doing and it went from there.
(2)As an artist, what do you hope to convey with your work?
At the moment the focus of my work is superstition and folklore. My goal with this current body of work is to portray Irish folk figures, such as leprechauns, pucas and, at some point the banshee, in a more realistic fashion. I’ve painting them as figures in more contemporary attire, such as hoodies and tracksuits instead of the traditional tuxedo and bowler hat. I’m not trying to redesign these spirits but rather reinterpret them without the element of parody and cliché.
The fact that nobody really believes in them anymore was also something that interested me. They are effectively unemployed and due to this they appear to have very little going on in their lives, the leprechaun is no longer needed to mend shoes and the banshee is not needed as a warning of death. They have all been replaced with rationality which I think is a pity.
Leaves, Oil on Canvas, 55cm x 35cm, Pat Byrne, 2015
The New Baal Fires, Oil on Canvas, 57cm x 40cm, Pat Byrne, 2015
(3)What memorable responses have you had to your work?
I received really positive feedback in June this year towards the current paintings. It was the first time they had been installed for display and it was my MFA Graduate exhibition at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. My work almost sold out, I only brought home one painting out of the installed body of work which I was really surprised at because before that show I only sold 2 pieces. Also during this show 8 of us had our work reviewed by artist and art critic James Merrigan. That was great and one of the most memorable responses that I have had towards my work because in the paint department we all would have been following James’ website Billion Journal.
The Honeycomb Project was another project I was involved with in 2011. It was a collaborative light installation that 5 of us worked on for The Electric Picnic music festival and we got a lot of positive feedback. That was the first time that someone might have been talking about a piece of work and I was able to say I was one of the artists who worked on it.
The Honeycomb Project, MDF, Plastic Bottles and LED Lights, Laura Byrne, Pat Byrne, Karen Hendy, Helena Malone and Vera McEvoy, 2011
(4)What is your dream project?
I don’t think that I have ever really thought about what would be my dream project. I think at the moment my dream project would be to exhibit alongside some of my friends that I have met along the way. During my undergraduate studies at Galway – Mayo Institute of Technology and postgraduate studies at the National College of Art and Design I’ve been really lucky to meet some really great people and to become friends with them. As for my own work, I would like to work towards a show outside Ireland at some point and continue working in a similar way to what I’m doing now and I think another Icelandic residency would be good too, I have applied for one recently and I’m waiting to hear back so hopefully it’ll be good news.
The Result of Solitude, Oil on Canvas, 36cm x 25cm, Pat Byrne, 2015
(5)What artists, of any medium, do you admire? (Famous or not!)
Kevin Cosgrove, Kehinde Wiley and Jeremy Geddes are three figurative painters that I really admire. Even though my work is nothing like Fiona Rae’s I have always really liked her paintings too and how she speaks about them. Niamh O Malley and Ailbhe Bí Bhriain are 2 more Irish artists whose work I like. Painting features in Niamh’s work alongside video and installation and although Ailbhe works with video I think there’s a very strong painterly quality about her work.