Artist Catherine Ryan developed her curiosity in people and their interaction with the world while working in a photo lab as a student at the California College of the Arts. Hours of staring at people’s color negatives certainly changed her sense of color and composition. But more importantly, it had a strong impact on the subject matter and underlying themes of her artworks. “All of the images I was looking at were simultaneously very personal to each customer, but also fit into a very universal language that most people seemed to use when documenting their lives,” she said. Since then, she has been observing people as her main subject matter and “creating work that could speak both to the personal and general aspects of human existence.”

Ryan also has a tendency to infuse a tension and a mysterious mood in her work. Her work calls from a technicolor time and her use of uncanny figures develop a sense of mystery that leave the viewer both intrigued and possibly a bit frightened. She mixes figures that are both familiar and unfamiliar to give us a twist on what we perceive to understand about the world and our lives. She has come up with her own way to “create a physical manifestation of tension” by applying both acrylic and charcoal to her works. Charcoal’s dark tone brings a rich and soft feeling to her drawings and in a stark contrast she uses acrylic paint to add color and variety . “I’m completely open to however people want to interpret my work. My only hope is that it maintains some element of ambiguity or mystery for them,” she explains.

Ryan relies on “random bits of visual and verbal information that cross [her] path” for new ideas. Scenes from movies and photographs, and even a memorable line in a book all provide stimulus to her creativity. While she very much enjoys her current process, Ryan also said that she plans to continue exhibiting and observing different forms of art. “I want to explore animation and sculpture in future works."

Link to works

Contributor: Theo Darmawan

18th Mar 2014 Lauren Miller

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