This is one of the most keenly anticipated exhibitions that we have held at The Fine Art Society for some years. John Byrne’s skill as a draughtsman has been masterly since his first exhibitions in London and Edinburgh in the early 1970s but, if anything, in recent years his technique has reached an even higher level of virtuosity. This is despite the fact that he has spent long periods away from his easel writing for the theatre. That he is equally revered as a writer is a rare achievement. In his eighth decade his work ethic remains as rigorous as ever. He has worked long hours for this exhibition from early morning to late evening every day for the last twelve months.
John 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. In his most famous play, The Slab Boys, Byrne drew on his experience as a paint mixer in a Paisley carpet factory. During the 1980s Byrne wrote the cult television series Tutti Frutti, followed by Your Cheatin’ Heart. Byrne uses a variety of styles and techniques as he has always tried to avoid being associated with particular styles or movements in art. In 1967, following a lack of success with London galleries, Byrne produced a series of paintings under the guise of ‘Patrick’, which he claimed were by his untutored seventy-two year old father. These were met with enormous interest, much to the artist’s amusement. He occasionally still paints work in the faux-naïf ‘Patrick’ series which are inscribed with that name. Byrne’s return to painting after two decades of writing for the theatre and for television has seen his reputation grow – his last two shows have been sell-outs. His work is held in major collections in Scotland and abroad. Several of his paintings hang in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. An exhibition of Byrne’s portraits is scheduled to take place at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2014.