Final week to catch this show!
Ryan Monahan explores colour in the work he is showing at the WAG this month, but he also wears his artistic creations on his body, albeit in monotone. I spoke to him while he was hanging his acrylic paintings on Friday, and discovered that the tattoos are a reflection of his earliest interest in drawing. As a LaSalle high school student, Ryan liked to make patterns and geometric shapes. He created his first tattoo at the age of 18 and, after five sessions in a tattoo parlour, now wears his own designs on his arms: a series of thin, irregular and wavy lines encircling his upper arm and shoulder; a geometric Möbius strip-like shape; an Escher-like configuration that he calls Impossible Triangles; and an intricate circular pattern reminiscent of an old-fashioned doily. His most recent tattoo--a smaller and simpler creation comprised of parallel gently curving lines that bring to mind a shell or a fountain—is perhaps a more accurate indication of his current interests in abstraction.
For Ryan, who is employed at Sodexo (Queen’s hospitality services), painting is a hobby. It began after high school when he used watercolour to make landscapes and flowers. He moved into abstraction when he became interested in using a tablet to create digital paintings. One-and-a-half years ago he switched to acrylics and now, at age 22, his abstract expressionist canvasses cover a range of sizes, the largest, Cerulean, dominating the walls of the WAG.
With only 12 works on view, the paintings have room to breathe. And breathe they do, as each of them conveys a kinetic energy. Chroma, a blooming of reds into browns and golds, demonstrates deftly animated brushstrokes, as do all of Ryan’s paintings, in this case short, curved irregular marks. Radiant, on the other hand, uses longer, textured, sinuous strokes that evoke fire.
“How do you know when a painting is finished?” I ask the inevitable question that addresses one of an artist’s conundrums. “I just have a sense. I do a painting all in one day. I’ll take a break and then determine if it needs more work.” Torrent was the most difficult to finish, Ryan recalls. In contrast to the works in which paint has been added in thick, opaque layers, or work with overall colour, this painting is composed of bold, wide, red, black and beige brushstrokes on a white canvas. The starkness is alleviated by transparent drips, created when Ryan added water. Imagine the artist with paintbrush in one hand and squeeze bottle in the other. Torrent was his first attempt at this method and he says it was hard to know when to stop.
The paint/drip process is one Ryan has continued to use and then further exploited by hanging his paintings with drips appearing sideways or upside-down. Incandescent, as a result, feels more horizontally striated, while the upward-flowing drips in Cerulean conjure stalagmites in a cave-like setting that draws the eye to a central opening of textured blue light.
COLOUR THEORY continues at the Window Art Gallery until June 23, 2018.