SUSAN O'BYRNE

Susan O’Byrne specialises in the making of narrative animal forms and has developed a unique set of making processes which aim to articulate human sensitivity. Based in Glasgow, Susan exhibits widely in the UK, Ireland and abroad.

Artist's Statement

 

“The animal as metaphor occupies an extraordinary role in the imagination, and has colourfully populated myth, children’s stories and cultural tradition throughout history. Sharing our emotion but not our reason, the animal can be used as a vehicle to distil, reflect and embody aspects of our own humanity”

Susan O’Byrne specialises in the making of narrative animal forms and has developed a unique set of making processes which aim to articulate human sensitivity.

The techniques she now utilises in her ceramic process combine a childhood obsession with making in papier-mâché and a continuing interest in domestic and historic craft, folk art and collage. Larger works begin with a high-temperature wire armature. This becomes a three-dimensional line drawing onto which sheets of thinly cast paper clay are applied. The natural shrinkage of the clay around the wire armature is exploited to articulate the angularity of the form.

Susan’s work has also referenced past trends in the collecting of animals. One series “Bestiary” aims to acknowledge a human fascination with creating order in the natural world through the categorisation and documenting of other creatures. While “Bestiary” alludes to the early medieval animal “catalogues” of the same name, “Menagerie” an installation of one hundred varieties of labelled birds from the British Isles displayed in individual boxes, evokes early Victorian domestic and museum collections. Each ceramic animal or bird is collaged with a highly detailed patterned ceramic surface, which recall medieval encaustic tiles and Victorian wallpapers.

Most recent work has seen a development of the surface pattern to reference historic domestic needlepoint. This has involved the designing and production of laser-cut stencils that are used to create intricate, lace like patterns in very thin sheets of porcelain which are then cut and applied to the surface of the animal body.

Inspiration for recent work “Five sisters and a Family Tree” derives from her experience of growing up with an elderly grandmother and her four sisters, who were hugely influential on her interest in craft and making. The narrative of this work originates in the stories of ancestors told by the sisters, a clock making family who migrated from the Black Forrest in 1860 to set up a business in Cork.

In “Five Sisters and a Family Tree” five Roe deer represent the sisters, each celebrated by an individualised “needle worked” blanket. “Family Tree” is an installation of fifty wall mounted animal portraits identified by name commemorating the individuals in the stories.  While details in the surface patterns reference the narrative in the five sister’s written memoirs, the work also attempts to acknowledge the influential presence of domestic craft in personal heritage and within Susan’s own identity.

Susan’s practice is now based between Glasgow and Cork, and she continues to exhibit nationally and internationally.

Further Images

Rienhold Hirschler Capybara

Rienhold Hirschler Capybara

Bathilde Kalb Racoon

Bathilde Kalb Racoon

Ursula Krahe Tapir

Ursula Krahe Tapir


Exhibitions


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