In Le Capitaine, Paul 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.
Opening Event: Thursday 8 February, 6 – 8pm.
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