John Byrne: Sitting Ducks

John Byrne exhibition posterScottish National Portrait Gallery

I recently mentioned visiting the beautiful Portrait Gallery in my post about my love for Scotland. Whilst visiting the Gallery I saw an attractive exhibition dedicated to the work of Scottish artist John Byrne.

Byrne was born in Paisley and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1958 to 1963. He has worked as an artist, playwright and theatre designer. Byrne has always tried to avoid being associated with particular styles or movements in art. I was interested in the exhibition because the artist guided the selection of works on display, with many of the portraits being of close friends and family.

John Byrne exhibition, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

In this video, Byrne gives an introduction to the exhibition and guides the viewer around the space. He discusses some of the most captivating works, including those of his children and the beautiful Tilda Swinton.

I’ve always know John Byrne as the artist with the best moustache in Scotland! The exhibition contains a number of self-portraits (including the painting below) which show the evolution of his famous facial hair! I remember this artwork fondly, as previously hung in the Gallery cafe. I’ve spent many a time gazing at it while enjoying a coffee and a lovely homemade scone. That jacket is truly something to behold!

Self Portrait by John Byrne, 1971-1973. National Galleries Scotland

(source: National Galleries Scotland)

The exhibition also includes portraits of well-known faces, including comedian Billy Connolly wearing his famous banana boots!

Billy Connolly by John Byrne, National Galleries Scotland.

(source: National Galleries Scotland)

As well as the self-portraits, the other artworks which captured my imagination were the quickly executed chalks of his children. Even though the exhibition only covers two rooms, I felt it was successful in showcasing the artist’s various styles. It was also a truly Scottish exhibition. Perfect for my return visit! If you want to know more about the work of John Byrne, many of his artworks can be found on the Your Paintings website, as well as the National Galleries Scotland online collections.

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John Byrne | Sitting Ducks

National Portrait Gallery of Scotland

14 June – 19 October 2014

Admission free


Detail of white Lace dress by Paul Vasileff and Paolo Sebastian

Lace: the art of adornment – exhibition review

After seeing a couple of tempting snaps on Instagram, I decided to visit the lace exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia. The exhibition draws on the Gallery’s collection of bobbin and needle laces spanning over four hundred years, mixing it with historical paintings and modern couture dresses. Although the display only fills up one room, there is a delightful mixture of things to look at and enjoy.

This stunning couture gown designed by Paul Vasileff, of Paolo Sebastian was bang on trend for me. I loved seeing the dresses on open display, without the detraction of a glass case. They certainly brought to mind the royal wedding dress worn by a certain fellow St. Andrews’ graduate. You can’t escape the fact that Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress has placed lace firmly in the fashion spotlight.

The exhibition is packed full of beautifully intricate collars, cravats, cuffs and veils. My curatorial eye was particularly impressed by the flawless mounting of these difficult objects. Slips of fragile lace hover on purpose-built mounts and float at the back of the cases.

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A wall of historical portraits bring the lace garments to life, showing the how they were worn by both women and men.

Historical portraits on display in the lace exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia

Apart from the dresses, my other favorite thing on display was this beautiful cream parasol. Such objects evoke a bygone age when ladies promenaded wearing their finest clothes.

I really enjoyed visiting the exhibition, particularly the range of items on display, however I felt the interpretation was slightly scant. Object labels only give the minimal, basic amount of information. Viewers are left to create their own narrative, rather than the curator telling the story. Personally, I would have loved to learn more about the people who owned these objects and how they were created. However, it’s still worth navigating your way to the basement of the Gallery to examine these beautiful objects for yourself. I’d be delighted to hear what you think of the exhibition. Just leave a comment below or tweet me @amyldale.

Bye for now…

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Showing until February 2015 at Art Gallery of South Australia, Gallery 19A 

Free admission 

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