Monday 4th February 2019

The King of California is back with his sun-drenched ice-cream coloured pastel technicolour dreamland. Australian artist George Byrne is here for his second residency at the Olsen Gallery with his new exhibition Post Truth. We spoke to Byrne about how he captures this world:

How has California changed for you since your Local Division exhibition at the Olsen Gallery two years ago?

I’m not sure California has changed that much (definitely better coffee, more traffic and vegan taco stands), but my perception of it has for sure. I’m fast approaching 10 years living in LA so it’s now by far the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere other than Sydney. It feels like home, I have my corner of the city worked out, I have my routes.

Why ‘Post Truth’?

The idea to call the show that came about during a conversation with a friend, I was explaining the work to her, how I have been using photo-collage etc, and we kept referring back to this post-truth concept and how the term worked on a macro and micro level to describe the work and the world we were living in. So it became the working title for the show and then it stuck. 

What are the essentials when you go out to photograph the city?

Coffee, car, camera, bucket-hat, Neutrogena SPF 75, sunnies, shorts, t-shirt,  & Asics Gel Kayano (there are no points for style out there in the field).

Is the California you capture hard to find?

Many of the images in this exhibition are impossible to find, as they are photo collage, so I guess the answer to that Q is yes. But in general, yes, I have to really grind hard to do what I do. I don’t find it easy at all. So much so that sometimes I think I’m in the wrong trade. But in the end, when the show goes up and it’s all done, I do get immense satisfaction from all the work I put in. Its great and I feel very lucky to be able to do this with my time.

To me your work would be soundtracked to Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon album. What is your ultimate soundtrack to this series?

Wow, I love that! I just pressed play on that record so I could see what you mean, haunting / alluring? I’ll take it. In terms of a soundtrack I would choose…hmmm well I listen to AM 710 sport radio all day in the car while I work, so probably that. But musically I’d lean towards something sparse and in a major key, like the dirty 3, but only the sweet/nice songs.

What was different about your process this time?

For this series I really embraced the idea of pushing photography away from being rooted in truth, ie: straight documentary. I wanted the images to hover in a space somewhere in between painting and photography. Both real and surreal, keeping the viewer on their toes.

Do you have a favourite photograph from Post Truth?

Probably the title track: Post Truth, 2018. [Above] For me this was the image that I got most excited about when it landed and got finished. The image is actually made from a chunk of an apartment block in Bondi mixed with two different LA locations. I’d been wrestling with it for weeks and weeks and then had a big breakthrough. Once it was finished it was also the image I tested and tuned for the longest, from start to finish it was like wrestling a snake into a hessian sack. 

I was also really happy with an image called Desert Pit Stop, 2018. This image is also made up of two very different locations, and to me it has a really winsome, Cohen Brothers-esque cinematic feel. It was the very last image I worked on for the show, and felt like the perfect note for this collection of images to end on.

How do you know when to stop / when are you finished with a series?

The reason I know most of the images are finished is because I run out of time. Without an exhibition deadline I think I’d just work on the pictures forever so thank god I have shows.

You have mastered capturing California, where else in the world do you want to George Byrne-ify?

Lolz, I think Miami & Cuba would both be great for this type of work, we shall see.

‘Post Truth’ is on view at The Olsen Gallery, Sydney until February 17, 2019.

by Roxy Lola





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