Pause for Harmony: Art in Lockdown

Launch by the Gerard Byrne Studio

Photo courtesy of the Gerard Byrne Studio

David Prendeville

This September, the Gerard Byrne Studio will launch the highly anticipated ‘Pause for Harmony – Art in Lockdown’ exhibition. Gerard Byrne’s second major solo show of 2020 features an extraordinary and very unusual collection of plein air paintings which form a visual diary of Dublin City in lockdown. While the world came to a standstill during the pandemic, Byrne used this time to create his latest series of plein air artworks, predominantly oil paintings with a number of charcoal sketches.

As a plein air (outdoor) painter, used to travelling for a subject to paint, a lockdown was the last thing Byrne needed. Confined to staying at home, Byrne had no choice but to paint from his rooftop, a place he would never have thought to be inspiring.

Unexpectedly, he found solace and peace in painting the rooftop scenes in such a quiet and tranquil time. News travelled fast and it wasn’t long before Byrne’s new painting spot was featured in The Irish Times video, soon becoming locally known as “the artist from the roof.”

Encouraged by the positive feedback he received, Byrne then ventured further afield, changing his view to the neighbouring streets of Ranelagh. Invigorated by the warm and bright days of spring and early summer, Byrne painted daily, exploring his new neighbourhood in South Dublin. Eventually allowed to travel within the whole county, Byrne’s series expanded to include scenes from the South Dublin Bay coastline, from Seapoint to Dalkey.

The collection reflects Byrne’s discovery of the charming and picturesque buildings, often overlooked in the ordinary busy life. In a time of such fear and worry, the colourful depictions are uplifting, showing the beauty Byrne has found in the simplest of things.

With many people watching Byrne paint from a distance it brought a sense of joy and community to the streets. “The collective energy of people’s positivity and emotions as the city’s nature was reborn with birds chirping minus the sounds of cars and jet engines, fed into my work,” Byrne says.

During the course of these three months Byrne has completed over 50 oil paintings, which incorporate his signature flair for florals and foliage recreating the beauty of Dublin 6’s Victorian and Georgian architecture and green urban spaces. “When I paint outdoors I capture not only what I see but also the energy of my surroundings. I thought this was a very special time and I wanted to capture that collective energy in as many works as I could,” says Byrne.

To celebrate this year’s Culture Night, Gerard Byrne will launch the virtual exhibition, ‘Pause for Harmony – Art in Lockdown’ on Friday, 18th September.

A preview of the physical exhibition will also take place on the evening with 30-minute tours and live Q&A with the artist.

The physical exhibition will then run from Friday, 25th September until Sunday, 25th October at The Gerard Byrne Studio & Gallery, 15 Chelmsford Road, Dublin 6