Celie Byrne is a Scottish contemporary, multi-disciplinary artist based in Fife. Since her inclusion in the 2011 BP Portrait Award Exhibition with ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, a painting of her then teenaged son, Celie has become prolific in the intervening years.
She predominantly paints portraits but can also be seen up scaffolding, brush in hand, to produce large scale murals as part of Kelty Street Art around Fife and beyond, or tooled up to collaborate with fellow artists to reimagine once loved but neglected spaces to form thoughtful and political installations.
Celie has works in numerous private collections. Her most recent self portrait was acquired by the Northern Ireland Civil Service and is now part of Stormont Estate permanent collection.
Whereabouts in Scotland did you grow up?
My family is from Paisley. I grew up in a wee bungalow on Paisley Road Renfrew, opposite the Glynhill Hotel. My brother and I would shoot short films at Renfrew and Glasgow Airports or go back and forth to Clydebank on the Renfrew Ferry. Paisley Museum and Art Gallery was a regular haunt, as well as Renfrew Library. Pretty sure I have Noggin the King (Noggin the Nog) still on loan from 1971. There was also a great wee book and toy store, think it was on School Wynde or Moss Street, where I would spin the rotating display of Tintin and Asterix waiting for the latest adventure to be released.
My mum Alice loves live performance and we would go to the Citizens Theatre virtually every Sunday. There was always an excitement about the Citizens, it was full of energy, slap bang in the middle of the Gorbals.
Kelvin Grove Art Gallery & Museum was a great regular haunt. The visits would usually end with either a round on the putting green or the best vanilla ice cream at the café across the road. On the odd occasion I would get a tiny jigsaw from the gift shop.
My summer holidays were always at the seaside. Day trips to Troon or Saltcoats, weekends on Milport or the whole summer on Arran.
What are you more Scottish childhood memories?
I’ve lived in Kelty now for over 25 years and with Inverkeithing being a mere 10 minute drive down the M90 there is a constant reminder of a day back in ’74 or ‘75. Murray and Barbara Grigor were hosting a Burns Supper celebration. All the adults and children wore tartan, in one form or another, adorned with some lucky white heather. One room was set up like a cinema with Brigadoon on the screen, stopping half way through as the haggis was piped in and, if memory serves, Murray reciting the Selkirk Grace, toasting the haggis afterwards.
If a visitor was coming to Scotland what would you suggest they do that’s off the beaten track?
My home is in Kelty, Blairadam to be precise. Blairadam House, built in the 1730s by noted Scottish architect William Adam, has appeared in Outlander (1.6 The Garrison Commander). The surrounding area is a mix of landscaped woodland and industrial history. Blairadam Estate and Forest has waymarked trails and is part of Fife Pilgrim Way.
The village of Kelty itself is now a little street art hot spot, which I like to call ‘Murals in the Rurals’. There are over 20 hand painted public artworks, created by the Kelty Street Art team. We are a small group of artists bringing colour to the village we call home.
How has growing up in Scotland affected your art?
Having the parents I have, has been crucial. They are the funniest people I know. Scotland is full of the funniest people I know and love, so I like to inject a little bit of my inherited humour into my art. I’m all about the people on my doorstep. I love painting them and I love painting for them.
Scotland has a rich creative heritage and contemporary community, where is a good place to look for emerging talent?
For emerging talent, I would recommend going to see art school degree shows, plus the VAS, SSA, RSA annual open exhibitions in Edinburgh.
Do you have a favourite Scottish phrase, saying or word?
Get tae Freuchie
What is your favourite Scottish food and why?
Porridge….with salt. There’s nothing tastier than a warm bowl of porridge with a drizzle of cream. Very satisfying and keeps you going for hours.