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Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Interview :: Ryan McLennan

(All Images © Ryan McLennan via Joshua Liner Gallery)

Virginia based artist Ryan McLennan has created a  dense visual parable for our own existence, where animals, much like we humans, shape their surrounding world while engaged in the struggle to survive and coexist.  McLennan opens a solo show of recent works this weekend, at New York’s Joshua Liner Gallery. We had time to ask Ryan a few questions before packing up his new paintings and heading to the city. Make sure to click images for larger views.

TAC: The title of your upcoming show is “The Strain of Inheritance.” Can you talk a bit more about this?

RM: Basically it is the struggle for survival and trying to build upon what little there is to begin with.  Who exactly these animals have inherited their world from is not important, but they have it and what they are doing with it and themselves is the focus.

TAC: How crucial is it for you to create images that contain a political, social, or environmental message? Is this the starting point for you when planning a piece or body of work?

RM: The environmental message built the landscape for my paintings so it remains prevalent, though not always at the top of my thoughts. Political and social issues come through in the narrative, but again not a focus. I think those messages seep in through the subconscious, as I don’t consider myself an overly political person, definitely not a political artist. I am telling a story, creating a world that in many ways reflects our own. The animals in this world deal with issues just as we do. They have social relationships, varying religious beliefs, love and family, opposing political views, crime, work, and so on.


TAC: What can you share about your creative process and the research that goes into your pieces? – Has it changed or evolved at all with the latest work?

RM: When I started making these paintings, I was concerned with factual information and researching the behavior of the animals. This is still important, but lately I have found interest in fantastic and absurd scenarios. Using what I have read in mythology and legend to create landscapes and taking influence from portrait photography to individualize the animals, giving them roles in society. These sources have pushed my work in a different direction. I feel like these paintings have evolved into stills from a fantasy movie.

TAC: There seem to be conflicting messages of both hope and despair, violence and peace in your paintings – as if new life is being sustained by the death and destruction of previous life. What are your thoughts on this?

RM: The life and death cycle is very important in my work as well as in nature.  I recently spent some time in Yellowstone National Park, which is crawling with wildlife.  For all the elk and bison I saw I also came across plenty of skeletons and antlers.  Those remains help in sustaining the ecosystem there.  I use this in my paintings, but I push it a little further.  The environment in my paintings is so barren that anything existing there must be considered for sustenance, shelter, or as something sacred.  I lean a little more to the despair and struggle, which brings us back to the show title, but there is still a feeling of hope…with a little humor, at least funny to me.


TAC: So, you’re packing up and heading to NY for the show – anything you are looking forward to in the city?

RM: I’m really looking forward to seeing my NY friends. My family, Boston, Richmond and Philly friends all coming together.  Simen Johan at Yossi Milo   Gallery and some other shows I want to see around Chelsea. Museums. Bookstores. Restaurants. Just being in NY and not in Richmond.  I try to visit enough to not have to live there.

Ryan McLennan – The Strain of Inheritance
Oct. 17 – Nov. 14
Joshua Liner Gallery
548 W. 28th Street
NY, NY 10001

Posted by ATARMS | Filed in Interview, New Infos, New York City, Openings

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