Ryan Callanan is an artist working in contemporary printmaking and graphics. Already a prominent artist on the Street Art scene, the last three years have seen Ryan move away from this aesthetic towards a new practice that draws upon his in-depth knowledge of materials and craftsmanship acquired through his training in industrial model making and 3-D design.
From the starting point of the emblematic visual sign, Ryan began a series of works using the smiley face synonymous with acid house rave culture in the 1980s. Working in bas-relief, this iconic motif was recontextualised by rendering it in material and style usually associated with traditional pub signs – gold inlay and black lacquered background. This highly technical skill obtained and finessed through Ryan’s parallel career in the sign making industry.
This lead to a series of works in this visual style of the subverted pub sign, playing with further motifs such as the Cherry and the Watermelon of a fruit machine, again their meaning sent array using this simple visual pun. Ryan chose symbols to begin with as a means to accessibility, this is art that everyone can enjoy and understand the reference point. This is a common theme that has run throughout his practice, which has seen him draw upon a broad spectrum of contemporary popular culture, including film, music and art history in work that is often refreshingly comic and accessible.
From symbols Ryan progressed this visual aesthetic onto text, using colloquial words or phrases such as ‘fanfuckintastic’ or quotes from song lyrics that were personally significant, such as 90s hip hop and rap, all in an appropriate pub style font. Important to all Ryan’s work to date is this concept of the cross reference: taking one item out of its context and splicing it with another to create something that feels familiar but whose meaning is subtly shifted. This is used to great effect by Ryan’s use of the pub sign style, something so atmospherically nostalgic and locked in the collective British psyche it becomes an unconsciously absorbed reference point against which the words or symbols can react.
Ryan continues to progress his artistic practice and is working on new projects with song lyrics as well as numerous public commissions.