welcoming scottish artist John Byrne
When speaking about the arts in Scotland there are few names which spring to mind for their quintessential Scottishness while being internationally recognised. John Byrne is one such artist.
Friends of Nuart will be well aware of our interest not only in the modern phenomenom of street art culture but also in its extensive and rather deep roots, from the much documented Mai 68 riots in Paris and extending to the NYC subway tags of TAKI 183 & Futura, we now add John Byrne to the equation with his 1970’s mural in Scotland’s industrial heartland Glasgow. A chance conversation brought John to our attention and after some research a rather incredible story began to unfold, one which aligned almost immediately with the ethos of Nuart.
Perhaps best known as writer of The Slab Boys Trilogy of plays which explore working-class life in Scotland, and of the TV dramas “Tutti Frutti” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” his art was propelled into the public eye when he was the first artist to paint the ‘Gable End’ of a Glasgow tenement block in 1975. His mural, “Boy on dog” became a familiar sight to anyone racing along the then new Clydeside Expressway with the piece being regarded as one of the first “street art” murals ever produced in the UK.
John Byrne said:
“ Back in the late 1960’s and 70s the street artists of New York caught my eye. I loved the idea of finding a derelict building and using it as a canvas for my art. That’s why I did the gable end in Glasgow I wanted something big to paint on to see if I could do it! Something that would be seen by people from passing cars on the motorway, so the gable end was an ideal site as you could see it from the Clydeside Expressway.”
Indeed John is no stranger to the limelight with a career spanning more than 60 years, Byrne’s art has adorned walls, theatre roofs and appeared on various album covers for the Beatles and Gerry Rafferty, as well as producing critically acclaimed paintings which hang in galleries and private collections around the world. Although celebrated up and down the country, it didn’t come easy for John. Coming from a working class background and moving into the arts, having to fight for opportunities working with pop culture and music, overcoming being an outsider in both camps to finally succeed. He was also arguably, alongside Rochdale’s Walter Kershaw, one of the very first people to paint a public mural in the true spirit of “street art”.
Described by Billy Connolly as “Scotland’s favourite artist”, the celebrated painter and playwright will give an exclusive ‘In Conversation’ interview fronted by the BBC’s Fiona Stalker to open this year’s Nuart Plus series of artist talks, lectures, debates and film screenings.
John Byrne says:
“So more than 40 years on since I did the mural I’m looking forward to seeing what the artists are up to in Aberdeen. When it comes to street art people should expect the unexpected. I’m sure people will be curious to hear what I think, I’m sure I will get asked all sorts of interesting questions which is what I enjoy.”
We feel a strong affinity to John Byrne and we’re absolutely honoured he’ll be opening this years Nuart Plus programme. You can reserve tickets for ‘In Conversation with John Byrne’ via The Belmont Filmhouse online
or in person at the Belmont Filmhouse from 12 noon on Thursday 21 March.
Book tickets here, limited to four per person.