Interview: John Byrne

This article is from 2011

Interview: John Byrne

Painter and playwright at 2011 Edinburgh Art Festival

What came first – the art or the writing?
It must have been the drawing and the art, because my mother used to tell people that I was drawing in my pram. We have to take her word for it – she was a very honest woman.

Do you hold writing and art in equal regard?
It’s funny that, I love both. Whichever one I am doing at the time is my favourite if you ask me then. This exhibition is 97 percent all new, so the last two-to-three months I just lived my life as a painter.

Can you write and paint at the same time, or does one take a back seat?
I don’t think so, they have their own timing, telling me which one wants to be done. The next thing is another, slightly shorter version of [his first play] Writer’s Cramp with the original cast, in November. Secret location – pop-up theatre!

Did you approach your children’s book in a different way to your paintings?
I don’t think so, apart from the fact that it’s slightly more conventionalised. It was a bit too dark for the Americans – they didnae want the dogs to be smoking or drinking.

Do you get extra satisfaction out of self-portraits?
No, I’m just curious about myself. I think it’s odd that people don’t paint themselves the whole time. I’m struck by the entire mystery of being here. I’m curious about what makes us tick. I’m perfect to be experimented on for analysis. There’s no chance I’ll come to any answers but I can ask myself some interesting questions.

Are you going to have a break from art after this?
No, I have another pressing deadline! It’s good to move onto something that’s fresh and different. It’s a wonderful thing, people are very honest to the fact that I wear two hats, if not several more.

Open Eye Gallery, 557 1020, until 5 Sep, free.

John Byrne RSA

  • 4 stars

New works by idiosyncratic artist and playwright John Byrne, coinciding with the publication of a new biography by Robert Hewison, and an appearance by Byrne himself at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Thu 18 Aug.

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