In Domestic Fictions, on exhibition in the East Gallery, are paintings by Jim Byrne, known for his tableaux of isolated figures in spare landscapes or interiors. Byrne’s figures enact charged personal dramas in almost painful stillness, in spare, but ordinary domestic environments. Whether seen as chimeral, somewhat surreal or iconic, Byrne’s figures metaphorically reveal larger aspects of the human condition, suggesting combined aspects of support and vulnerability, healing, and desire. In a formal sense, the artist’s studied approach to painting is classical in attitude. Recent work displays decorative patterning and flattening of space as a means to depict an internal or spiritual state. His emphasis on believable characters in a domestic narrative is compelling.
In a New York Times review, Byrne’s work was described as depicting subjects “placed in incredible landscapes or interior settings, yet a strange disorienting quality hovers over each moody scene. Especially enigmatic are works that pair figures, for their interaction, or lack of it, has a core of strain, much like the work of George Tooker.” At the Mercer Gallery in New York, Byrne’s work was described by arts writer Joseph Karoly as rendering “a tenor of emotional familiarity, yet they remain opaquely private and mysteriously inaccessible… The common-place is infused with an enigmatic resonance. One has a sense of wandering in on the figures.”