Introducing the practice and paintings of Bev Byrnes.
As boundaries between subject and object dissolve, the phenomenon of presence becomes amplified. Presence, in this context, is something ‘beyond’ what is seen; it imparts an unseen and yet ‘felt’ sense of illumination. It is this presence which ultimately guides and shapes the direction of my work.
– Bev Byrnes
It’s probably a given for artists whose practice concerns itself with presence that entry into their creative space will call for quiet, for silence and stillness. As poet Mary Oliver puts it, Stillness. One of the doors / into the temple. My own imperative is to establish stillness and silence, both externally and within: I sit down and shut up and empty and keep on emptying…
For Bev Byrnes it starts with a tea ritual. She’s a serious tea drinker and a true connoisseur. She writes:
Every morning begins the same. The dawn quietly fills the studio with gentle light. To my right, a brown clay water kettle set on a low flame to keep the water hot. In front of me a small, low table, cut from a slab of rough wood; teacup and teapot at the ready.
The sound of water simmering. The smell of wet tea leaves. The stillness of morning. The taste of the tea.
Drinking tea this way is an exercise in mindfulness. It quiets inner chatter and brings energetic coherence to the body. This daily ritual is an important part of the creative process that plays out each day in my studio. As the focus of the tea session washes the mind clear, an inner silence grows. From here the work proceeds. […]
The way the creative process “plays out” might be to birth a highly realistic still-life painting in the tradition of northern European early Renaissance painting, or, perhaps it will initiate a conversation with handmade water-based paints and the processes of Japanese nihonga painting. She says she loves each approach equally. To me, there’s something quite remarkable about this bi-hemispheric capacity. It’s the mark of an artisan fully at ease with her materials, free to wonder where they will lead as she follows them into the great (un)Knowing.
Usually the realist paintings are a still life of a few simple objects lit with the soft light of a north-facing window. The first layers of paint are straightforward descriptions of form but as layers accumulate and observation becomes more subtle a felt sense of presence grows. […]
Some paintings are more abstract in nature. The beginning of these look like haphazard mark-making. They get the flow going. From this point on, it’s a matter of listening. The listening must be silent and clear, with no owner, and sometimes it would seem to the mind there is no good coming of it. […]
This post is just an introduction, an appetiser…
Please view Bev’s page at the artisans’ gallery, where her thoughts are shared in full and you can see more of her stunning work.
Images, from top:
Bowl with Mandarins, detail
Studio Tea Ritual
Work in progress – Studio set-up for ‘Three Bowls’
Landscape of (un)Knowing, detail
Red Onion and Winter Squash with Birch Sticks
All images provided by, and copyright Bev Byrnes.