Introducing Annabelle Byrne: a Walthamstow based artist who spends half her time being a bartender and every waking moment building her online art gallery Shiver. A true independent spirit, she lives by her own rules and tries to break down the barriers of the elitist art world by showcasing the work of young emerging artists.
Starting out painfully shy, hating a classical school environment and being drawn to the idea of working for herself, she got her BTEC art qualification instead of doing her A levels and went on to study Fashion Promotion and Imaging at the University for the Creative Arts in Epsom, with a focus on fashion photography.
“It had really been a toss-up between choosing fashion photography or fine art and in some ways I wish I had chosen fine art as I feel like my aim was always to take the elements of fashion photography that I liked but bring that into fine art. When I spoke about this with my tutor during my final major project, I was pretty much shut down and told ‘that’s not how it works’… After that I stopped listening to him and did the final major project I wanted to do, lost marks because of it, but produced a body of work that I still feel proud of. I definitely fell out of love with photography for a while after that though. University ruined it! I didn’t really feel there was a place for me to go down that route at that time. It took five years for me to start thinking of shoots I wanted to do again.”
Next to producing her own work, she now focuses on providing other talented up and coming artists with a platform. “Shiver is an online and, when the world get’s less Covid-y, pop-up art gallery with the aim of showcasing and supporting emerging artists, while offering affordable artwork to customers of all price points.”
Making way for a new generation of artists
As somebody full of new ideas, she started out with a concept called EXHBT: an online platform for existing art galleries where they could show their exhibitions online through 360 photography. “My aim was to try and create more space in the art world for more artists to make a living doing what they loved. I thought if I could help galleries reach a wider audience, this would lead to more sales and therefore more opportunities for others.”
After developing EXHBT for a while, working a full time office job on the side and learning more about business in her spare time, she realised she didn’t want to take it any further. “It’s a nice idea, but I eventually realised I was going down a very long-winded way around it. The art world is very cliquey and unless you’re already in, it’s very hard to get anywhere unless you really push. But I realised that’s not what I wanted, I hate that elitist, exclusive shit!”