20/04/2021 On Anne Ryan

On Anne Ryan

The first in our Open Boot series, Chloe Carroll takes a closer look at the work of Anne Ryan, an artist we are delighted welcome into our line-up on May 15th.

“I like not knowing the rules,” laughs artist Anne Ryan in a short profile video made to accompany her solo show at Hastings Contemporary last spring. “I don’t want to know the rules. I’m only visiting. I’m happy to visit, cause chaos, cause some mess, and get out of there!” She is describing her joyful, intuitive approach to creating, not her dinner party etiquette (although having never attended a social function with Ryan, I can’t be sure!). 

If the colourful inhabitants of her off-kilter, carnivalesque miniature worlds are anything to go by, this description applies to her painterly approach as much as to the contents of the work itself. Nudely-frolicking, guitar-strumming, cigarette-puffing, arse-bearing, shape-throwing, cartwheeling pleasure seekers all, the extensive cast of Earthly Delites (Hastings Contemporary, 2020) and A Barbarian at the Gate (greengrassi, 2017) seem to personify creativity unleashed, unconstrained by either polite society or the rectangular frames of mounted canvas.

In recent years, Ryan’s name has become synonymous with the cut-out form; a technique she stumbled upon whilst wandering Rome with a sketchbook. Unwilling to leave the thick card binding of the book unadorned, the artist would draw images onto its surface before cutting them out, then finding the resulting holes to be a fresh lens for the pages beneath. The wild incongruities and intersections made possible by these cut-outs, arranged en masse like crowds at a Dionysian festival, are thrilling surroundings. 

Interlocked like dancers; pierced with view-holes; double, triple, quadruple-sided, they form a gathering where rules are not necessarily ignored, but simply don’t need to exist. Even the order imposed on a gallery visitor in many a traditional exhibition becomes debunked here, where new terms of encounter and approach are set out by the works as they invite you into their undergrowth.

Anne Ryan, Rude Women, 2019

At the last live Art Car Boot Fair at Kings X in 2019, Ryan presented a series of two dozen ceramic Rude Women: fleshy, unabashedly nude figures carved into clay and painted with the requisite blotch and splatter; a celebration of texture and skin. In these works, rudeness is a virtue and a signifier of beauty.

Its etymology is from the Latin rudis, meaning rough, coarse, crude. Unlearned. These earlier definitions remind me not just of the artist’s predilection for jutting shapes and unruly surfaces, or her delight in imagery which might occasionally be termed vulgar by a more puritanical viewer, but also of the remark which followed the one quoted from the Hastings Contemporary interview above. Doing away with the rules, she says, is “when you start really learning what you possibly could do when you shed all the things that you’ve learned and all the things you should be.” I can’t wait to see what new and wonderful tools for unlearning Ryan brings to this year’s Art Car Boot Fair, where rules, as always, are made to be broken.

Anne Ryan lives and works in London and is represented by greengrassi and is a mentor on the Turps Painting Programme.

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