G. Ramon Byrne
By Claudia Pardo 05/05/2011
In the case of sculptor Ramon Byrne, it was wood. Raised among craftsmen (his father, grandfather and uncle), he was exposed to the art of carving early on. His recollection of a falling tree on the side of the road, however, made a great impact on him. “Somebody had taken the time to build a wooden structure to support the tree to prevent it from toppling over.” What looked like a giant wooden crutch filled the artist with inspiration. “It had both functionality and aesthetic,” he says. “It appealed to me. I thought, ‘I can do this.’” Byrne developed as a woodcarver and mosaic artist before being introduced to sculpture at age 22. Under the mentorship of renowned sculptor Edmund Kara, and later famed carver Nathan Blackwell — who carved all the lettering of the Ronald Reagan memorial — Byrne began his work in stone.
The sound of music
A resident artist of Art City in Ventura, Byrne — with the patronage and support of founder Paul Lindhard and his partner Russell Erickson — has been participating in the local art scene with his stone creations since 2006. His upcoming exhibit, “Composed in Stone,” will feature eight life-size, hand-carved instruments from different genres: a sousaphone, a violin, an accordion, a saxophone, an electric guitar (a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, complete with iconographic elements), an upright bass, a horn and two drums. “I strive to make a statement that is greater than the pieces themselves,” he says. Committing himself to untold hours, Byrne has devoted his efforts and skill to realizing his artistic vision with his current body of work. His remarkable passion for his art, and his ambitious drive, have catapulted Byrne to a new level of command, evident in his series of musical instruments. “I love the challenge, he says. “ I do whatever it takes to get there, to express my vision.”
Romancing the stone
A third-generation stonemason, Byrne has developed his very own sculpting method over the years. Following the “pitch, point, claw” technique, a tool-states-function system in which the name of the tool defines the type of chiseling needed (the pitch tool hews the stone; the point tool refines the carving, and the claw tool flattens out the stone), Byrne taps the stone twice with his mallet, constantly listening for the sounds that indicate the direction of his next move. “By eliminating the potential of damage, you eliminate the damage,” he says. His mastery of this technique and his highly trained eye ensure an effective and thorough process, with outstanding results.
Out of sink
Whether it’s chocolate limestone, white Italian marble or onyx, stone choice is crucial for Byrne. Yet the relationship with the material is an integral part of his craft — the objects reveal themselves in the stone before Byrne begins to carve them. One of those instruments, the only one that will be on sale during his exhibit, is a French horn Byrne carved out of an onyx sink.
Similarly, it was an odd-shaped piece of stone that Byrne found five years ago that originated the vision for the instruments series. “As the piece revealed itself as an accordion,”he says, “it was a wonderful moment.” Byrne doesn’t force the object into the piece; rather, he allows the stone to communicate what it wants to become in his hands.
”Composed in Stone” will be on exhibit at the Museum of Ventura County, May 6 through June 26.
For more information on Ramon Byrne, please visit www.gramonbyrne.com.