John was born in Belfast. he went to the Art College there before attending The Slade School of Art in London in the mid eighties. It was there that he began to practice as a performer, and has since performed at venues throughout Ireland, the UK, Denmark and Poland.
Returning to Ireland in 1996 he performed ‘A Border Worrier’ for the 1997 Dublin Theatre Festival. This apparent obsession with the Irish Border culminated in his ‘Border Interpretative Centre’ (2000) a week long visitor centre project right on the border. It was subsequently documented in solo exhibitions at Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin, Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast and Gallerie Agregat in Mitte, Berlin within sight of the site of the old Berlin Wall.
“Would you die for Ireland?” a 12min video shot by John in the Summer of 2003, involved him travelling the streets of Ireland (Dublin, Belfast, Cork) asking the above question to a wide range of people including Bertie Ahern, members of the Orange order.
In 2004 he installed his ‘Dublin’s Last Supper’ a large digitally manipulated photo-work in enamel, screen-printed and fired onto 9 adjoining panels.
2005 projects included:
February – Group show with Victor Sloan and Mickey Donnelly, at raum5 gallery, Berlin, including Would you die for Ireland
June – Video Believers premiered at the Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork. In this work Byrne is the central protagonist, confessing his art beliefs to a classical female nude who in turn responds, thus playing on the traditional notion of an artist and his muse.
June – Solo show at the Fenton Gallery, Cork
Cork City Council residency – ‘The Criteria Residency
In 2006 he represented Ireland as part of Site-ations International in Riga, Latvia.
In August 2010 he presented Casting Light a spectacular video projection mapped onto the facade of a bank in Cavan which was showcased during the Fleadh Cheoil. This included a segment where the bank appeared as a giant fruit machine. An updated version featured in 2012.
‘Misneach’ was a major permanent sculptural work commissioned as part of Breaking Grounds Public Art programme. This one and a half life size bronze monument of horse and rider is rendered in a style typical of the European tradition of portraying heads of state. The horse is a copy of the Gough Memorial originally sited in the Phoenix Park which was blown up in 1957. The rider is modelled on a teenage girl native of Ballymun. The completed monument was mounted on a plinth and unveiled in September 2010.
John has recently worked on a number of commissions including a (per cent for art) work for the Loreto School in Balbriggan (2013) and a new collaborative work with The Palestrina Choir entitled Good Works commissioned through Create. This was performed in The Cavan Cathedral (2012) and the Chapel at IMMA (2012)
He has been the recipient of several Arts Council Awards and his work is in many private and public collections (including the OPW and UCC).
He regularly lectures in colleges throughout Ireland and was external examiner in Sculpture at Limerick College of Technology.
He lives and works in Dublin.