Amelia’s Magazine | Exhibition: Nicholas Byrne: Seven Metals Seven Planets Seven Days of the Week

Occupying the central space of Vilma Gold’s new gallery premises just off Hackney Road are the paintings of recent Royal College graduate Nicholas Byrne. The crisp white wall space remains untouched, instead battened from ceiling to floor a set of board backed canvases hang on simple wood structures aligned in a mono-directional procession. Alongside stands a larger canvas similarly supported from ceiling to floor, though facing the other direction to the adjacent procession of smaller works.

Clustered under the collective exhibition title Seven Metals Seven Planets Seven Days of the Week, the show alludes to the Ptolemaic cosmology and the geocentric conception of celestial alignment maintained during the middle ages. This is an illustrious source for inspiration, and the sense of elapsed historical wisdom radiates from Byrne’s work. Forms seemingly lifted from dusty renaissance scrolls swim in heavily applied oil, while architectural sketches evoking early studies in perspective drift into billowing colour.

The referential tension in the work is clearly set between science and art. And it is in terms of the latter element of this coupling that Byrne really cuts loose. He rather haphazardly deploys a myriad of art historical references; De Chirico styled busts backed are by the opticality of Cruz-Diez or Bridget Riley; Cubism, Maleivichian Suprematism and Mondrian’s palette all wrestling with each other for precious space on Byrne’s canvases.

Whether the relentless referentialism of Byrne’s work is a spoiler, I’m unsure. What can be said is that it results in a rich and intriguing space for those willing to indulge in a spot of visual archaeology. As an individual inclined to such activity, Seven Metals Seven Planets Seven Days of the Week, proves more than worthy of attention.

Categories ,canvas, ,exhibition, ,Nicholas Byrne, ,painting

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