While throughout Will Ryan’s evolution as an artist the element of earthbound spirituality is perhaps the most dominant thematic component in his work, its presence arises from more than mere metaphysical esotericism. Instead, it is the product of the artist’s genuine veneration for the mysteries that have perpetually defined humankind’s relationship to nature while guided by a confidant hand generating an energetic marriage of thoughtful process and painterly spontaneity.
Melding a humanist vision and Eastern mysticism to method and technique, the works reverberate with the energy of earth and sky not as shallow pictorial studies but as manifestations of the artist’s unique interpretation of non-objective reality itself. Substituting the cold surety of science with the dramatic ambiguity of painterly impulse, Mr. Ryan conjures universes both foreign and familiar, their explosions of color and light flowing in improvisational streams that create inexplicable yet recognizable images and shapes that are the product of both random chance and assertive intent.
The result are tableaus in which the focus shifts seamlessly from elegant shadows to bright luminescent patches, the eye following a stream of energy through distant landscapes of the mind, all made real but never constrained by predetermined frameworks or artificial pictorial constructs. Rather, instead of framing the imagery of liberated natural forces in what Kenneth Clark called “some durable hieroglyphic”, Mr. Ryan seeks a more exploratory path that relies as much on feeling as seeing.
This inevitably creates aspects of profound tension within the works but never to the point that competing components become disconcerting or obligatorily discordant. On the contrary, much as Jung wrote of how “great energy springs from a correspondingly great tension of opposites”, Mr. Ryan’s works flare with luminous and frenetic intensity while simultaneously creating pockets and passages of thoughtful and meditative calm in which mysterious images gracefully ebb and flow.
In this way Mr. Ryan is also able to interject subtle rhythms and harmonies that, much like jazz, develops concurrent streams of both expected and unexpected elements, much as in the musical concept of ‘tension and release’. Offering juxtapositions in the compositional structure where melodious passages gain in strength and impact from the presence of dissonant notes, the works produce both psychological and visual exclamation points that impact on the mind as well as the eye.
Allowing the hand to interact with both intellect and emotion to fashion powerful images of celestial reveries, Mr. Ryan is able to create delicate yet vibrantly assertive works that are as mellifluous as they are concurrently cacophonous. Using progressions and cadences that arise from deep within the human consciousness, they succinctly reflect the observation by the 16th century calligrapher, painter, and art historian Tung Ch’i-Ch’ang who once wrote, “To transmit the spirit, there must be form. When the form, the mind and the hand are in total accord, each forgetting the other’s separate existence, then the spirit will reside in the work.”