Ryan is a queer painter working predominantly in oils and watercolour, using classical mythology, biblical mythology and literature to visually translate queer symbolism through traditional painting techniques. Ryan is currently represented by Soft Opening
Q: When did you work out that painting was the right medium for you in your practice? What drew you to start painting?
I started painting at a very early age, around 5 or 6, that's when I can remember thinking painting is something that can mean more to me than just being a fleeting pass of time. It's basically always been a part of my life.
Q: Your work often references Greek and Roman mythology, ideology and aesthetics. How do you use and adapt historical ideas around the representation of bodies to your own work?
I reference Greek and Roman mythology because it's a great source of allegory and is the base of ideas of ancient queer ideals in western Europe that were lost or intentionally muzzled until the 20th century. It allows me to show the queer beginnings of these stories. I try to strip away the historical ideal of the adonis and fainting soft goddess and bring a larger feeling of power and fragility.
Q: Your works often use seduction as a tool to entice the viewer through nudity. How important is seduction in your work?
Seduction is a wonderful tool, I want each painting to be like a siren song, wanting someone to come closer and slowly take in everything they are looking at.
Q: Your characters often have a strong gaze as if they were looking directly at the viewer, revealing a fictional landscape that at times even delves into the sphere of science fiction. What's your thought process when producing an environment in your work?
The direct gaze is a thing of power, taking away voyeurism and creating a level plain between the most often nude figure and the viewer; the figure is allowing you to look at them. But the same can be said when the gaze is indirect as if saying I know you're looking, but I don't care.
Q: The bodies represented in your work are often androgynous, queer and displaying intimacy. Sometimes these are loosely based on real people, but how otherwise do you generate these identities represented in your work?
An androgynous body can sometimes help tell a story better. I also find them to be beautiful, but in the way that a tree or mountain is beautiful and striking. I use myself most of the time as a life model which allows me to manipulate the figure to how I want, however, if there is a likeness to a real person it's mostly an exercise in painting and also because, maybe subconsciously, I think that person looks right for the piece, and that what I would have made up in my imagination simply wouldn't have been as good as the real. I want to create an environment that doesn't exist and couldn't exist, something that is familiar yet untouchable.
Q: Your paintings often explore the intersection between fantasy and gender fluidity. How important are ideas around these themes in your work?
Pretty important. I don't really want to show aspects of my life as I find myself uninteresting, so why paint a dull world when I can make something fantastical and never seen before? Gender fluidity in my work is more of just an unconscious constant, I love it so it creeps in and is only welcomed, especially when subverting ideas of a character that is established in the Western Canon.
Q: Which painters are you currently most inspired by?
They are always going to be the same for me. I find it hard to stray away from the likes of Bronzino, Pontormo and mannerism in general but also Rossetti, William Blake and Max Ernst. However, most of my visual inspiration comes from filmmakers and photographers like Cindy Sherman, Dora Maar, Man Ray, Powell and Pressburger, Fellini and large Technicolor productions.
Q: How do you think the function of painting as a medium is changing in 2020 and how would you like to see it change?
I feel that the love of the physical process of creating a painting is being cherished more; not just thinking about if something 'works' or not - which is stupid anyway.
Q: What advice would you have for any LGBTQ+ young painters reading this right now, looking to establish themselves as a painter in the future?
I would advise a young LGBTQ+ painter to not give everything of their queer self away because they probably don't deserve it.
Q: What are you working on next?
I'm still working on ideas I've had for years and with the same visual ideas but have also had thoughts of creating something that has more of a physical presence in a space like altarpieces that hold devotional images.
Published: 25/04/2020 by Queerdirect
Edits by Tamar Clarke-Brown