Muscle Memory, 2014

Basel 2015
Vilma Gold
Nicholas Byrne Muscle Memory, 2014 Oil on gessoed panel 50 x 40 x 1 cm 19 3/4 x 15 3/4 x 3/8 inches Drawing on copper, linen, paper and board, Nicholas Byrne’s paintings disperse emergent figures amongst a restless ground. Made on a scale relating directly to the body, these works are reminiscent of an era in British painting in which the figure is brutalised. Byrne’s paintings are composed of superimpositions of febrile surfaces; built up, scraped down and layered over again. Curves, spirals and loops recur: Dynamic forms, leading the gaze around the surface. Occasional bright clean planes of colour impose themselves across the surface but don’t allow the eye to rest. The work employs a diverse lexicon of art historical references, but takes particular influence from notions developed during the Rococo period concerning the motivating effect that sinuous form exerts upon the beholder’s gaze, leading it around the surface of the picture as if following a dancer. There is an erotic sense to this notion- the viewer’s pursuit of an object of desire- and in Byrne’s paintings this pursuit is sublimated into intricate plays of display and concealment.