In our opinion, Rob Ryan is one of the most romantic, creative and innovative artists working in London today. An additional joy is that Ryan’s work is so accessible via the broad product choice in his super cool store, Ryantown, on Columbia Road.
Robert Ryan was born in Akrotiri, Cyprus in 1962. He studied Fine Art at Trent Poly between 1981 and 1984 and then printmaking at the RCA from 1984 until 1987. Two years ago in July he opened Ryantown and his studio is located nearby.
We were really delighted and not a little honoured when Rob agreed take some time out from his hectic schedule to be interviewed for the “Blink” blog. Thanks very much Rob! Thanks also to Hazel for helping us to make this happen.
For you, what is the most important aspect of being an artist?
If it has to provide for you and your family, you have to get that aspect right. I’ve only recently been making a living from making art.
Its also really important to make an environment that you can be free to create in. It takes a lot of time, energy and commitment.
I’m now in the position of needing to make choices between jobs and what I decide to take on. Do I want to do anything at all or just work on my own projects? It’s a wonderful place to be but a bit scary. Although actually, I’m as happy now as when I’d just left college working as a cycle courier and being creative when I could. It’s the doing that is the excitement for me.
Which comes first for you, the text in your work or the imagery?
Either or both. Sometime one or the other, sometimes together. I constantly jot in notebooks and then piece it all together. The words incorporated in my work are kind of verbal doodles for me.
Do you think that ethical and sustainable issues are at all relevant to what you do?
In the creation of the work, absolutely. Recently we produced a printed silk scarf in India. We collaborated with NV London Calcutta to ensure that this was ethically created and that the workers were all well paid.
What project are you currently working on and how is it shaping up?
We are working on two exhibitions, the first one, called ‘The Stars Shine All Day Too’, opens today, so its been heads down while we’ve been getting ready for the launch. This show is in London at the Air Gallery on Dover Street and will be about new work mainly. The second show is in Stafford and opens on November 12th. It will be a mixture of new and old, almost as an introduction to my work.
This will be followed by a well-earned break and then it’s back to creating Christmas shop stock.
After that I’ll be working on a new book for next September. It’s a children’s story written and illustrated by me. It’s bigger than a classic picture book with lots more in it.
What or who are your longest standing influences?
I’ve always been influenced by painting and fine art. Titian is the greatest painter ever, also Raphael and Donatello. I love Italian painting. I am a long-standing fan of German painting too. I’m massively into the Romantics like Mensel, Schinkel, Friedrich. It’s their solitary viewpoint, a thoughtfulness, something deeply introspective and a unique approach to landscapes.
How would you describe the Rob Ryan aesthetic?
Homespun, whatever I feel like doing that morning- whether it’s on to a plate or T shirt or an intricate paper-cut. It is what it is…
What is currently tempting you into making a purchase for you, your home or your studio?
We need to buy a new screen-printing surface, which is quite an investment. For me I’d really like a scooter. An orange Vespa ready to be covered in stickers would be perfect- its all about the colour more than anything.
Has your career developed in the way that you expected it to?
Yes and no. I didn’t think I’d be working as part of a team. I thought I would always be trying to do my own work, but didn’t expect it to become a company, with people helping me. I didn’t think of success, just of doing the work. I really expected to be self sufficient I suppose.
Who would you like to collaborate with, past or present?
People tend to come to me to discuss collaborations, rather than the other way around. If I could, I would really like to work with Tim Walker. He’s got a poets eye and I like that.
When do you feel most creative?
Mostly it’s just before going to bed. I keep a sketchbook by the bed. If I have a thought I jot it down. That inevitably leads to more thoughts and then I’m wide awake again so it’s a little counterproductive!
We’ll be heading to the London exhibition and we think you all should too. What a great opportunity to see some amazing new work from this wonderful artist. Thanks again to Rob and his team. We wish you huge success in both exhibitions and we can’t wait to see how the children’s book turns out!
Robert Ryan. This portrait was commissioned for a piece in 'Crafts' magazine
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