Dublin Punk turned artist to Hollywood stars in the frame at Art Source

by Alison O'Hanlon
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A former Dublin punk who is blazing a trail with Hollywood stars such as Elizabeth Banks and Kerri Russell is set to have his work showcased at Ireland’s biggest art fair.

When director Banks was living in Dublin during filming of the gory horror comedy Cocaine Bear, she spotted Tom Byrne’s work in a Dalkey restaurant and immediately commissioned a portrait. 

She was followed by Matthew Rhys and Kerri Russell, the stars of the movie – based on the true story of a black bear who overdosed on dozens of packages of cocaine dropped into the Georgia wilderness during a botched smuggling operation. 

Former punk Byrne also painted Oppenheimer star Alden Ehrenreich, who appeared in Cocaine Bear, along with screenwriter Jimmy Warden.

Now he is setting his sights on Art Source, expected to attract over 15,000 people and featuring 200 of the best in contemporary Irish and international artists and galleries.

But the Kilmacud native does not deal only in Hollywood elite.

Tom Byrne with his piece Seamus Heaney, which will be featured at Art Source which takes place from November 10-12 at the RDS

In 2018, he was commissioned to create a piece for Pope Francis’ visit to Lithuania, which now hangs in the Vatican. 

“I wasn’t aware that it was a commission for the Pope at the time. In retrospect, I am actually quite relieved about that,” said Tom.

“I had already done two exhibitions in Lithuania and the National Gallery there had acquired some of my pieces, so I was quite surprised when I discovered the true purpose of the commission.

“I think that art should be spiritual in nature, so I was glad. I got quite a kick out of being featured in the Vatican News, too.”

In quite an unusual artistic career evolution, before the Pope, Tom was a hardcore punk artist.

“I used to design art for the fashion label IGOR in the late eighties and they would incorporate my work into their prints,” he said.

“It was a punk label and at the time, I was hardcore punk. I used to hang out with all the punk bands and design their album artwork and backdrops. 

“When I started out my career, I was described as classically trained with a punk mentality. 

“Now, I’m still covered in tattoos but I’m also married and have kids and am involved with galleries. I wouldn’t necessarily hang out in that scene anymore.

Abstract City by Tom Byrne (€3,000), which will be featured at Art Source which takes place from November 10-12 at the RDS.

“My style now is called disruptive realism. I’ve kind of left the punk scene and am more spiritual now, I like to meditate and include spiritual practices in my life and I try to bring that into my paintings.”

Closer to home, his clients have included Sinéad O’Connor, Dara Ó Briain, Louis Walsh, the Happy Pear twins and Gerald Kean.

Irish art lovers will have the unique chance to get their hands on 100 pieces of original artwork for €100 each on a first-come, first-served basis on the opening morning of the show on Friday, November 10.

Art Source runs in Dublin’s RDS from November 10-12. For more information and tickets visit artsource.ie.

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