Ry An / 來 苑 －'Rai En' (with a pause) is pronounceable in places where 'Ryan' is not & also means: expected/ anticipated garden
Ry An | 來 苑
2021 the Banana Factory: “Compendium Playlist”
- 3rd Place
2021 Novado Galllery: “Memento Mori” - Skull exhibit, curated by Anne Novado
2021 Princeton University: “Unique Minds: Creative Voices”
2021 8th Annual New Jersey Highlands Juried Art Exhibit: Our Natural Heritage
2020 Monmouth Museum: “恐れ森・the Woods”, solo show
2020 Ethan Cohen Gallery: Darkest Before Dawn curated by Raul De Lara & Ethan Cohen
2020 Studio Montclair: Viewpoints 2020 curated by Virginia Fabbri Butera, PhD
- Honorable Mention
2020 Long Beach Island Foundation’s 22nd Annual “Works on Paper” curated by Sarah Suzuki
2020 Rexer Gallery: “American Eyes” curated by Eric Chelman
2020 Drawing Rooms Jersey City: the Big Show - All Animals Welcome
2020 Monmouth Museum: R’emerged: NJ Emerging Artists Alumni Exhibition
2019 “6th Highlands Juried Art Exhibit” at the Morris Museum
- 3rd Overall
2019 Site: Brooklyn: “Animals”, curated by Alina Cohen
2019 the Banana Factory: “the Art of Storytelling”
2019 Deep Space Gallery: “9 Lives” – Arts Exclusive Cat Show
2019 - Fine, Contemporary, & Asian Arts Advisor – Tenmoku Auction House
2019 LITM (Jersey City), Monthly Exhibitor
2018 Center for Contemporary Art : “2018 International Juried Exhibition”
2018 Autumn 2018 ESKFF/ Eileen S Kaminsky Family Foundation Residency: “the Woods”
2018 Historic Medford Plein Air Show 2018
2018 Trenton City Museum: “Ellarslie Open 35”
- Dick Blick & Jack Richeson Awards
2018 “39th Annual Monmouth Museum Juried Art Exhibit”
2017 Monmouth Museum Watercolor Exhibition
2017 Plein Air Exhibit of the Trenton Museum at Ellarslie
2016 - Assistant to numerous artists at Mana Contemporary, Jersey City
2015 Began making Salvaged & Recycled media sculptures
2015 – 2016 "Long" Hiatus from 2-dimensional art, due to a violent assault while painting
2012 - 2015 MFA candidate at the Graduate School of Illustration - AAU,
w/Focus on Animals & Creatures, Ink & Watercolor
2012 Returned to the US (following repeated threats)
2002 - 2012 Est. 700 - 1,000 Landscape Paintings done in rural/ remote parts of Japan
2001 Died (briefly)
As a person once entrapped in an abusive relationship, I tend to see manipulation and predatory behaviors everywhere. As a vegan, I am further bothered by society’s impetus to prey upon “the weak”: animals, nature, the poorer classes of people…
My attempts to cope with a number of terrible experiences led me to begin a series of allegorical oil paintings and recycled media compositions featuring vulnerable characters trying to escape similarly dire circumstances: - a blind horse, - a butterfly with tattered wings, - a cat on fire... The paintings have an implied narrative drawn from “a deep reservoir of assorted traumas”. They tie in with one another so that a story seems to unfold from one to the next. This is a story of consumption and abuse, without any of the blood or bruising, with “fun” & colorful terrors replacing the real world kind.
When interesting ideas appear in these paintings, I explore them in 3-dimensions with discarded media. By shining a strong light on a sculpture, I can better conceptualize how it should fit in a painting: how the light should look, how the shadows should be cast... The paintings and sculptures inform each other in this way. I’ll also “ground” the fanciful environments in a sense of reality by painting landscapes en plein air whenever possible. There are serene, scenic places & there are dark paths you take when wandering alone.
You will see it in paintings & in sculptures.
As a child, Ry An was frequently ill - passing many long days bedridden. He read books and imagined himself playing inside the illustrations on the pages to pass the time. He drew new scenes himself - specifically to have more imaginary spaces to explore later on.
Ry An died in the back of an ambulance when he was 23, claiming to have had an out of body experience in the process. He left the United States shortly after, spending the next 11 years traveling throughout Japan, painting nearly 1,000 landscapes “en plein air”. He lived there, alone, in mountainous areas with limited social interactions, no television reception or internet access. His paintings from this time period tried to draw attention to both: this sense of isolation and, “specific moments of time”.
There were earthquakes, landslides, large flea-ridden rats, systemic racism… His apartment was robbed by the Chinese Mafia. He was briefly the "mascot" for a local Yakuza boss. He caught on fire in an unheated apartment. He was hit by cars while cycling - five times, including one bout with amnesia. Soon after he reluctantly agreed to marry his former Japanese teacher, she became verbally, and physically, and dangerously abusive. He painted landscapes outdoors as much as he could but, ultimately, decided to leave Japan when she repeatedly threatened to/ attempted to murder him.
He returned to the United States in 2012 to escape his ex-wife’s escalating abuses, and to work on a MFA in Illustration, hoping to add a more explicitly narrative element to his art. He then spent 10-12 hours a day, over the following 3 years, drawing pictures at a desk in near solitude.
In 2014, he met a woman whom he fell fabulously in love with, but she also had an abusive ex. One night, while Ry An was working on an illustration assignment in his own home, she was nearly murdered in hers: ”blood and broken glass on everything!” She seemed to go insane and vanished soon after.
Ry An had been performing in the top 20% of his MFA classes, but struggled to complete the next two semesters – associating illustrations and narrative art, circumstantially, with the: bloodshed, and the loss of a loved one he had witnessed. After several months of producing no work at all, he learned to make sculptures out of junk-mail & other discarded materials, these being far enough removed from two dimensional art to not trigger the same psychological stresses. They began as whimsical animals, similar to characters from his earlier illustrations, but shifted to more “dangerous” things:
“So I make monsters. Not real world monsters. Not the ones with human faces that kill what you love devoutly… but scaley, winged, blue and green things, with tentacles and tongues as long as their bodies… devils that don’t spill and splatter real people’s blood on the floors, up the walls, and all over the pavement outside where any passersby will see. ‘Fun monsters’, safely contained in paper and paint.”
Ry An began painting again after several years. He is currently working on a series of dreamlike paintings that tie in with his sculptures, showcasing vulnerable characters as they travel deeper and deeper into a dangerous dark forest.
1-If you had a career before you became an artist what was it?
I taught English, mostly to children in public schools in a number of rural areas in Japan, spending the majority of my free time painting landscapes in the countryside.
I don’t know if that’s a career so much as something interesting to do with yourself (that also benefits humanity.)
2- What made you switch from your old career to becoming an artist?
The money wasn’t especially good, and everyone is afraid of you - or at least very uncomfortable being around foreigners (in rural areas) &, eventually, I just got tired of all the consistent racism.
I would have had to spend years & go into debt to get the qualifications to teach in the US (where the money is actually worse), so I left off the teaching when I came back to the US.
3- What inspired you to do the kind of art you do?
I feel like life is too short for unexciting art, so I try to make it all bold & colorful & hopefully memorable. I’m also trying to interpret what is seen instead of merely reproducing it mechanically, the way an unthinking camera would.
I think I have 3 ‘varieties’ of art:
The landscapes are supposed to capture (or at least suggest) the ‘uncountable myriad variations that exist moment to moment: “nowhere is nature ever completely serene. Each leaf flutters and falls, the branches sway and break, creeks & streams run - on and on (and on) - their rivulets & crests in the water never exactly the same. I try to make the paint convey the “busyness” here - the branches reaching in spring, the roots digging in for winter, the sky gathering clouds, the entire thing is moving & changing in each instant, which the usual ‘static’ style of landscape never addresses. I find that variations in vivid colors and a bit of texture in the body of the paint can express this.”
The narrative paintings/ the ones that seem to have a story in them, and the sculptures are both based on my experiences - mostly terrible ones. My ex wife (in Japan), for instance, could do anything she felt like doing to me & there were no effective legal protections for foreigners. She’d also threaten to hurt or kill my cat if she was really mad, so a lot of the paintings have a cat in them. “Long Legs, Short Steps” has a trail of bloody footprints in it because my girlfriend (years later) kept pacing through broken glass after her ex-husband tried to kill her.
Talking about absolutely terrible things in your real-life is difficult (& not helpful); art depicting vicious hungry monsters doing similar terrible things is easier than talking (also not terribly helpful). Each of these pieces has helped me only a slight amount but I feel like, maybe people with similar experiences can see the truth in it & it can make their experiences easier to deal with, gently, safely.
4. What was your inspiration for your sculpture called "One of These Days"?
There’s actually a song by Spacehog called “One of these Days” & the chorus goes: “...we all end up feeding worms, one of these days…” (Which goes back to that time that I died.)
It’s a good song.
And in Hamlet: “Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service - two dishes, but to one table. That’s the end.”
I also wanted to see something as lowly as a worm occupying the prized prime space of a gallery wall (where ‘only’ exclusively high cultural tastes are displayed).
5- What is your favorite color and do you try to include it in your art?
I’ve always liked green the best but I’m very fussy about the specific shades. I feel like there is a lot of green in my paintings, but there’s also quite a lot of it in nature so…
I’m not consciously choosing to use green, but I do choose subject matter that has a lot of it.
The signatures are almost always done in red. Red always looks good, no matter the specific hue.
6- Why did you go to Japan to do your art?
I didn’t, initially, have any interest in Japan but because I knew practically nothing about it and was never going to read any of the dry history books, it seemed like an excellent choice - for the “pure experience”.
Does that make sense?
If you get far enough from the urban sprawl, there are old temples, shrines, and statues hidden practically everywhere, so it is almost ideal for picturesque rural scenery (& for hiking).
And the fact that the majority of Japanese people are uncomfortable dealing with people who look ‘different’ means you have to find your own way to fill your time - productivity!
7- What is your favorite art piece that you have made?
I have a really small one: “Temple 19 with Blossoms”, from the Chichibu region that I’ve always liked. It’s simple, colorful, it has my favorite elements: the temple, the tree, the blossoms fluttering down, and a central monument on the hillside with a mysterious, perhaps significant message (which I did not render legibly ...it might say anything).
The Kappa is probably my favorite sculpture. He’s gleeful and cartoonish but still absolutely savage. I probably spent a week and half just making the small goldfish that’s struggling to survive in the shallow basin of water spilling out of its crown and you can’t even see that unless you’re really tall or standing on your tiptoes.
8-How long does one of your sculptures usually take?
Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo *^%*&** long!!!
On average, 3-8 months each but I am working on these things for 2 to 12 hours per day, 4 to 6 days each week, swapping one for another while I wait for pieces to dry enough to handle more..
I also don’t have a good grasp of time, so I’ll be awake 22 hours per “day” alternating between different paintings & sculptures & I wind up sleeping only 5 times per week (usually for 4 to 10 hours).
I began a tengu in November 2020 that I’m still working on (10/29/2021). I’m hoping it might be “finished” in February (2022). This one is larger than human scale and will have a full head of “hair” and it’ll be dressed in an actual antique kimono. It’s very very very involved, very large, and it keeps getting held up because a small detail here or there isn’t quite right. I decided a few weeks ago that it needs to have eyelashes ...so there goes several more days. I won’t be able to slip the kimono over both arms in the position that it’s in either, so at some point, I’ll have to learn how to sew.
9-How long have you been an artist?
I wanted to study art in college, but everyone said I’d never be able to get a job & would always be poor. (This is true now regardless.)
At any rate, in 1997 I was home from college for winter break (sophomore year) & my family was watching something boring on tv, so I absentmindedly drew one chicken foot on a large sheet of paper which transformed into an eerie large creature in a strange world - really without any forethought. It fascinated me, so I spent the rest of that week coloring it in as carefully as I could. I keep changing techniques, and ideas, and materials but I just haven’t stopped since that particular evening.
10- Have you been to all the locations depicted in your landscape paintings?
Yes. Not only have I “been” to them, I actually stood in all those locations for several hours/ several days each and painted them there. (The term for that is “plein air” painting.)
2, 3, or 4 landscape paintings (out of nearly 1,000) are completely imaginary, but all the rest were done on location.
& Usually 20-30 percent of them need to be adjusted/ corrected after I get them home and see something wrong (or if it starts raining or hailing ...Or if a gust of wind blows a painting face down into a sandy beach and I have to rub all the grit out after it dries & cover over all the indentations/ what have you… It can be frustrating.
You wouldn’t believe how many bugs get stuck in oil paint on a nice day.