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BSDA Artist: Interview Ryan McGennisken

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 · No Comments

New today on Buy Some Damn Art is Australian self-taught artist Ryan McGennisken. The artwork below is all from the show.

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How did you start making art?

Ryan: I actually started making art when I was a child. Probably those finger paintings and macaroni pieces glued on paper when you’re like 4 years old or even younger. I guess I just never stopped. I couldn’t put a time to when I actually started or how – I just never stopped. My mum was a painter when I was growing up and my dad was into creative things like building furniture – and they would always encourage me to do the same.
When I was growing up, my parents were avid travellers and we’d often spend weeks at a time in the dense Australian bush, or on the beach – and at the time, being a kid, I’d get bored pretty easily. My parents would sort of push me to draw or build huts to fill in the time. I think these moments of my childhood are the real basis of where my ‘art-making’ stems from, now that I think about it.

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How much time do you devote to your art? Do you have a set schedule?

Ryan: I don’t do much else to be honest. No set schedule but I’m full time in the studio and seem to find myself in there at least six days out of the week, sometimes everyday. I do a lot of painting and drawing, but also some sculptural work and play around with video and making music. I try not to limit myself in my practice. If making a painting isn’t happening, I’ll spend some time doing something else – anything else. It doesn’t matter to me as long as I’m doing something. It’s all in the process – it all helps to create the next work or exhibition.

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Your show with BSDA features works on paper. What other media do you work with?

Ryan: I mostly work with paper but I’ve recently been doing some works on canvas and board, but I have a real love for paper that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake.
With all the other stuff I do though, I do make small sculptures out of clay. Build installations out of wood I find around the city or drift wood on beaches or bones I’ve scavenged from abandoned farm houses. I really just try to do everything, whatever’s working at the time or whatever’s around. If I run out of paper, I’ll paint something on a canvas or on my desk or on the floor or some old cardboard out of the bin.


Your figures are veiled in a certain amount of anonymity, but there’s just enough detail to show each ones particular character. Are you figures real people?

Ryan: I actually build these people out of my head. I guess in some ways they are real people – When hanging with friends or even just hanging out at the coffee shop, I’m constantly watching peoples faces – taking notes of the way they’re put together or some weird expressions. But I guess I take that information and make up the face as I go. Sometimes they’ll be slightly based on someone I’ve seen that day. I don’t particularly want to know my subjects, I don’t think I’ll get to a point where I want a model to come to the studio and sit for me – My work’s more about the, like you said, anonymity. If I do paint a figure that is actually based on someone, I’ll never let anyone know whom that is.

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Your large-scale works like “Upside Down Elephant Hat, Worn by a Famous Musician” are fantastic and have so much going on in them. Can you explain what’s going on here?

Ryan: Thanks so much! These works really are done pretty randomly and done quite quickly, as fast as the idea comes I’ll just paint it in. With these works, I really do start off with a very vague idea or a single figure or I’ll paint in a face – but then I’ll just let whatever happens, happen – If I think about a goose wearing a hat, that’ll happen – or a snake, it’ll go in there as well without a second thought. Life isn’t controlled and the main subject is never the main subject – it’s just one thing happening in a storm of everything else. With that piece in particular, a ridiculous hat of an elephant worn by ‘a famous musician’ is lost in everything else. It’s almost not even there and certainly isn’t meant to be the main focus. It’s more of a thought or a demonstration of just how meaningless everything is when you think about all the elements in the greater picture and just how random life is. Sure, there’s a musician – you can identify with that, but when you take a step back – it’s just nothing amongst everything else.

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You state that your “new work is an ongoing investigation of what it means to be human.” Any thoughts so far?

Ryan: I’ve been working around the ideas of existence and the meaning of everything. The more work I do and the more I put myself into the work, the more I’m starting to find my place. In the grand scheme of things, I’m extremely lost at where I am physically and emotionally – I am not at all ‘together’. I spend a lot of time alone and like everyone else, I have skeletons – My work at the moment is focusing on these skeletons and the masks we choose to wear to hide them.
I feel a lot of portrait artists choose to paint the prettiness of humans and their modelesque physiques. I don’t see humans in that way, so I’m not going to paint them like that. I see them as skewed masks, trying to hide their inner demons and confusion of natural human emotions and uncertainties of the own existence.

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