Lives and works in Thirroul, NSW
8 February — 24 February 2024
Paul Ryan is impulsive in art and life; the two are inextricably linked. Everything he does has an infectious intensity to it.
The artist’s methodology is deeply considered, yet, at times, refreshingly impetuous. He constantly walks a compositional tightrope—we never know what will come next. How will the paint land on the canvas? What subversion is woven into the picture? Ryan is the master of this domain. We witness his impetus in the half-light of rationality and madness. It's one hell of a ride.
In this intoxicating mix, the artist searches through the history of portraits and the landscape. One cannot help but notice the personal, autobiographical feel that the compositions hold. Brooding skies and rolling surf breaks give way to calmer horizons. Swathes of paint roll over the canvas, mirroring the ocean—a welkin of familiarity. We can feverously read the man's mood as if trapped between the pages of Wuthering Heights—devouring the artist's narrative from cover to cover.
In Le Capitaine, Ryan plays with context and elegance. His portraits reference the Napoleonic and Regency periods, when dress and an over-the-top personal aesthetic pervaded society, indicating one’s social status. Ever-aware of contemporary context, the artist gives a wry nod to the online influencers of today—centuries may pass, but human nature is routinely recycled. Ryan is as much interested in the overt, androgynous dandyism of his protagonists as the neo-political history that they have come to represent.
This paradigm distinctively references his youth's New Romantic post-punk era. The music, attitude and stagewear from this time are never far away—hyped colour and bejewelled dress jackets hang from the figures. The viscous paint, in all its glory, adds a layer of seductiveness to the image.
The landscape—the artist's career-long inspiration—has, in this exhibition, been reimagined. Ryan’s great hero, Jacob van Ruisdael’s (1629 -1682) big sky landscapes from the Dutch Golden Age are omnipresent. Mountains and waterfalls provide an almost mythical context. It is a posthumous conversation between two artists. They ruminate on the landscapes constructed from reality yet, are of nowhere in particular. Ultimately, Ryan moulds his figures, particularly his muse J.V., into these environs of the mind. In doing so, we can escape this less-than-perfect world, at least for a few moments of respite.
Join Paul Ryan and the Nanda\Hobbs team for drinks to celebrate the opening of Le Capitaine on Thursday 8 February, 6 – 8pm.