John Byrne: Ceci n'est pas une rétrospective
“Paisley ‘buddies’ are, to a man and a woman, total oddballs. I should know, I’m one of them,” said John once.
John’s formal life as an artist began aged 18 when he entered Glasgow School of Art. His mother said he started drawing in his pram. A year before entering the art school, he started at A F Stoddart & Co in Paisley - a “Technicolour hell hole” - as a ‘slab boy’. Much of what was to come, visually and literally, drew on what John observed there. In 1966 he secured an exhibition - and his passport out of factory life - at the Portal Gallery, London under the pseudonym “Patrick”. Having passed himself off as a self-taught naïf, he was given an exhibition. The dream-like images that made up the show met with success. His ruse was uncovered and from here he went on to design record covers for The Beatles, Billy Connolly and Gerry Rafferty; and to co-write songs with the latter.
From the early 1970s John diversified into writing, designing and directing stage and screen productions. In the decades that followed an extensive iconography unfolded amounting, in some cases, to a kind of pictorial autobiography. In a finely balanced act, he pulled together the macabre and humour. But back to oddballs: running through all of John’s work is the outsider, either as a lone figure or a fragment of society. The vision may be fantastical and magical but it’s what John knows.
This exhibition coincides with John Patrick Byrne: A Big Adventure, a major retrospective exhibition of John's work at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, 27 May to 18 September. Comprising seven sections, the exhibition highlights key aspects of John's prodigious career from the 1960s to today. Further details and tickets at Glasgow Life.
Left: Ceci n'est pas un autoportrait, 2003, oil on board, 31 x 28 inches