As the summer hits Oslo since a couple of days, a breath of California is blowing over Qvale Gallery which is now presenting the works of the Australian artist George Byrne in the Summer Exhibition “Colours of California”.

“Photography is a funny game,” says LA-based photographer George Byrne. “It’s a lonely sport – you’re on your own, on an obscure mission to capture something and you don’t often know what you’re looking for but you know when you see it.”
George Byrne moved from Sydney to Melbourne, then experienced New York for one year before settling in Los Angeles in 2011 without much money or knowledge of the city.
“A lot of the time I’m shooting in LA I feel like I’m at war,” he says. “It’s like a desert. I’m a very white person and I get burned. I get so much satisfaction out of making pictures that beautify this bizarre landscape because it’s quite difficult to do it. People will keep their window up and the pedal pressed.”
George Byrne documents the streetscape of LA, driving and shooting in extreme temperatures in search of shadows and symmetry. He frames a pastel narrative of the sun-blasted walls lining the roads. Few drivers stop here.


Bus station Chinatown, 2017

The pictures are posted on Instagram, a primary stimulus for Byrne. The interactivity with his followers, which now number over 30,000, was central in his choosing a photography career.
“The question of the iPhone is really important for me,” he says. “Instagram gives you a varied practice, a way to flex your muscles and keep active.”
When, as a 30-year-old, he landed in America from Australia, Byrne initially absorbed himself with music, painting and acting.
After studying fine art history, philosophy and anthropology at Sydney University, Byrne transferred to Sydney College of the Arts to major in fine arts history as well as photography. His passion for painters informs his work. In particular he has “obsessed” over the progression of Mondrian who went from painting traditional still lives to minimalistic geometrical fragments.


Blue Awning with Pink, 2017.

As well as Mondrian, the painter Richard Diebenkorn and the New Topographics movement have also influenced his work.
This modernist leaning means his work has become more abstract, Mondrian-style, with some street photographs almost indistinguishable from purely impressionistic pictures. Byrne shoots people candidly, without confronting their gaze, because he’s more interested in representing the place.

“Firstly, I don’t like the moment when someone sees the camera on them. If I want natural I can’t shoot people from a closed distance.
“Secondly, once you connect with a human face in an image it’s human instinct for the picture to become largely about that face, not the broader image. I’m trying to paint a picture of a thing where the natural elements – humans or trees or whatever – are part of the tapestry of the scene.”


Burton Ways, 2017.

George Byrne’s photography work will exhibit as part of the summer show “Colours of California” at Qvale Gallery, Oslo, until mid-August.
Vibes Gate 10 – 0356 Oslo – www.qvalegalleri.no

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