Monday, January 14, 2008

Interview with artist, Dave Ryan

One of my blogging goals this year is to spotlight fellow artists who I believe are doing cutting edge work. I've known of Dave's work for many years, and in October I saw his paintings at In Art - Santa Fe, Fine Art Gallery, New Mexico. I was struck by the aura that each canvas had, this was a unique experience on Canyon Road and probably the best work we saw on that entire trip. So, of course I had lots of questions, and here they are. The answers, unedited, are uniquely his own.

Is there one place on Earth that inspires you most?

Moab, Utah Canyon Lands use to be my favorite spot on earth for 7 years. I was married to the land and craved it's energy. I would generally leave work from Denver, Colo. early friday afternoon around 3 pm and arrive about 9 thirty pm at fisher tower canyons to camp on the magenta red warm dirt valley floor. Can't see much cause it is dark so I use my truck headlights to set up camp. In the morning I would wake to sandy burnt pinks and pricklys mint green. Vast open space, and intense quite comforted me in my aloneness. It was all mine to adore without interference from anyone else. If you are camping with a friend the energy changes and nature's connection seems less intense. I preferred being alone in the quiet. 36 hours later on Sunday afternoon I would hustle into Moab town to get a taste of civilization i.e. Mexican food and a bookstore fix. The sharp contrast of aloneness in nature to the comforts of township completed my appetite. Each environment set off the others intensity and impact upon my senses. I could now go home completely filled up inside with an energy I could not describe but to be delicious bliss and contentment, along with a need to laugh or scream out loud to release the tension of joy inside my belly. With music blaring loud in my 4 wheel drive I would race the trains into Grand Junction, across the Rockies and into Denver by dinnertime. I made it to moab every month of the year for years at a time, not really understanding what it was that drew me to that warm desert scape. After 7 years of exploration my desire for that energy faded and I felt the need to be more social. A decade later, I finally understood the attraction or draw to Moab land. For years I had always thought it was the colossal beauty of the vast open blue skys and devilish hoodoo cliffs and spires. What you see is what you get and it was intense scenery. There was something more, something I couldn't figure, I was filled up with a bliss, laughing out butterflies of tension from my stomach. Sometimes I would buy a souvenir t-shirt of moab and stare at it all the way home thinking it was the greatest thing ever and I would protect that shirt for years. One day the thought unraveled in my mind and I realized the attraction was nothingness, the space, surrounding all the physical beauty. I was craving the quiet peace, the vast openness, something I called the loud quiet. The physical beauty was really the by product of my interest. Even though it was quiet it was an intense quiet because the space was so vast. You could hear the air move and then it wouldn't, for hours without interruption. The contrast of physical beauty against vast nothingness, became the mantra, beating against my psyche and body, into my soul. I realized nature was the catalyst triggering something already inherent within myself. The energy potentially contained within me seemed to be moved or affected by being present in that natural setting. It was like nature was doing the meditating for me, because I felt more alive and fresh and energetic. That nothingness was the real thing I craved, it seems very special and has a quality of comfort. It is the gaps of silence or nothingness between the notes of sound which defines music. The emptiness of nature enriched and magnified my perception. I felt more alive and awake inside. Inspiration to create is magnified in the light of nature.

How do you prepare for the creative process?

Most creativity takes place in my mind, I get visions or subtle input during meditation. Meditation is a quiet time and problems or desires about art tend to surface during that time. Images or thoughts will just pop into my mind when I am usually at that quieter deep level. I am not seeking any answers prior to meditation but apparently my cosmic computer is always working even though I am not conscious of its process. I do know I get answers without effort during quiet time. The hard part is to channel those visions into real results onto canvas. During meditation I usually get an idea of a new or better direction or different technique of experimentation. 9 times out of 10 the new direction does not pan out as I had envisioned it during meditation. But I am now on a new path or process of technique where even different exciting results begin to unfold. The key to creative result is to follow your passions and curiosities., because the process of discovery is as natural as walking. You become inspired with a vision, and step toward it by practicing to see what happens in that action. Doesn't matter what the results are only that you begin and continue to practice. New and interesting discoveries will unfold if you enjoy the process. You discover your unique potential talent only when it is fun and exciting to practice art. There is no such thing as a talented artists there are only people who practice over and over and over until to their surprise, somebody says, you're talented.

You are doing primarily abstract paintings at this time, does this work carry any particular message with it?

Only that these paintings are real, like real grass or real formations of rock. When anybody paints a landscape, the painting is a created representation of the real landscape. The land is real and the painting is fake land, represented onto the canvas painting. The technique I use to create this abstract work is a natural technique. Meaning natural laws of physics are utilized in the creative painting process. I set up the initial conditions whereby once the process of creating begins, the design unfolds due to laws of gravity. The pressure of flowing paint runs against edges and bends of somewhat vertically tilted large loose canvas sheets. The Colorado River flows against the side of cliffs carving its interesting textures against the rock walls of the Grand Canyon. The texture or art found on cliff walls is real, some more interesting than not...the texture found on my canvas sheets was designed by me but created by nature. Therefore my paintings are real reflections of nature since the designs are naturally carved utilizing laws of physics. My hands did not stroke the canvas surface, but in amazement I witnessed nature's process unfold before my eyes. As you view the beauty of line and curve of the snake river flowing beneath the Tetons you are viewing the natural physics of how formation is created by nature. As you view the lines and curves of my paintings you are viewing how formation is created by nature over a tilted canvas surface. My paintings are real as the snake river is real. Both are created by the same force of nature. Respectfully my paintings tend to mimic nature because they are nature. The message of my abstract paintings is that they are not representations of nature, they are nature on canvas. What is abstract? Everything is abstract in nature. It is your mind which creates the snake river and all its definition. The real perspective of the snake river is that it is just a number of curves and lines and shapes cutting across random boundaries. Take a picture of the snake river, turn it upside down, crop out a section, display it sideways and what do you have but a number of abstract lines, shapes and patterns. The only reason you may know there is grass and water in the picture is because somebody else's concept of what it was, told you so...when you were young.

I am intrigued by the titles of your paintings. Fire and Ice, Silver Lady, The Great Frontier all paintings featured here. Do you choose the title before you start or upon it's completion?

I choose the title of each piece at the end of creation or the name unfolds during the process of creation. You would not choose a name for the snake river until you saw the completion of the creation of the snake river. Oh! it looks like a snake, I will call this the snake river valley. Generally, I choose not to title what I see in my own mind. I prefer to choose an adjective or verb which exemplifies the energy of the piece. That way I do not identify the piece as I see it but rather leave it up to the observer to make that decision. During art shows, people will tell me, what my art is all about, and of course that is thrilling for me as an artist, since I too am a witness to natures creations. Don't ask me what it is, I am a witness as much as you...I thank people for telling me what it is, so now I can tell people what it is now that I know.

What is your preferred venue for showing and selling your work?

You come to my home, at my convenience, and pay me more money than I ask for buying more pieces than you have walls. That has only happened zero times. What excites me more than anything is to be able to create art and have people buy that art for charity sake. It feels great when I can divorce myself from a piece. Selling is the stimulus to create again and again. I also enjoy creating custom pieces when asked since it will challenge me in different ways than with other paintings. It is more challenging and exciting to create for a specific environment.

When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

On my report card in kindergarten my teacher said I had great potential in art. When I was 45 years old my mom showed me that report card for the first time. Oh well better late than never. Actually I went to college for 8 years and changed my major 4 times. First was geology because I wanted something concrete to learn. Second was psychology so I could figure out why I picked geology. Third was business admin. in the early seventies at the University of Boulder, Colorado. That is where I paid a lot of money to read Newsweek and time magazines from cover to cover in one class. Fourth was a major in health education. I was sick with candida, chronic fatigue, etc and no body could figure out what was wrong with me. Having spent thousands of dollars on therapy and health ed, I figured I might as well get a degree out of it and enrolled into a masters program. I graduated and got healthier over time. At age 37 years old I wanted to figure out what my real talent was if any, and I took many IQ and personalty tests at the University of Denver. To my surprise, I had great potential in art. If I had known this in kindergarten my art would be hanging in the Sistine chapel. I began to experiment with photography, and watercolor. One successful thing lead to another because I was having fun.

Who is your favorite artist?

My favorite artist of old is Turner. I love the washes and messiness of his technique. He was a master painter set apart from the norm. My present work was influenced by Paul Jenkins, a master pour and flow painter living in Paris, France. His work is more abstract than mine and I enjoy mimicking nature. I have always liked the look of watercolor and now I have been able to create that look on canvas.

Is there music on when you paint?

Music is the spark of life within my art. Meaning music is more important to me than painting. Think about it, would you rather go to see your favorite musician in person playing your favorite songs or go to see some boring piece of paper on a wall with a splattering of messy paint colors that make no sense. Duh!! Of course there is music on when I paint and sometimes I eat food and watch football while listening to music during painting. If I have to concentrate to make sure my next move in painting captures my intended vision, then all things get quiet. No ,music, and no sipping on my diet Pepsi, as I pace around the canvas eyeing it to death until it speaks back to me, try this now. I tell people I paint because I don't play music. Music is my next passion, brewing to the surface. Music is also cheaper to create than painting canvas. I will retire to music and writing. My same passion with art can be channeled through music and writing, so I will, without expectations, if I may, play music to dolphins on the warm beach of retirement

What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist?

My advice is to read all 10 answers I have provided for these questions. It's all there except you...practicing.

Where can we see your work in 2008?

My art can be seen online My website also shows 2 galleries, one Santa Fe and Denver. I would choose more galleries but that would take more marketing time and seriously cut into my recreation. You may also contact my studio home gallery and set up an appointment to view and buy more than you can afford. My work will be displayed at a number of functions and fundraisers from time to time. Democratic National Convention headquarters downtown Denver is one function in 2008.


Carmela LaVigna Coyle said...

Great questions, Thea!!!

And "Woooo!" stunning paintings, very evocative, artful answers...
my fav's:
yep... the fiery furnace and all those other red, raw, liquid canyons of Moab are pure recharge. (I told you so... Thea!)

And... see! We DID learn everything we needed to know in kindergarten...

And... his answer to listening to music while painting...
synopsis: " Duh!!"

Dave should write a book about his art experience. So much luscious imagery.

Anonymous said...

Very impressive work! Impressed by the artist's answers.

Coyle Inspection Engineers said...

I am at a loss for words... Amazing art. Amazing commentary. Great interview. OK so I found a few words, but nothing that really captures what I have just read and seen.


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