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FRANK RYAN

“Each tube of Rublev Colours Artist Oils has its own personality: long and plastic, short and grainy, some colors are fluid, retaining the mark and some resist the stroke and level out. These paints behave nothing like the uniform consistencies of other paint brands.”


ABOUT THE ARTIST

Frank Ryan is a contemporary realist painter based in Los Angeles. He embraces the conventions of naturalist representation to reflect on the realities of contemporary American life.

Ryan grew up in the North Bay Area. He began drawing as a boy and the sudden loss his father had a formative impact on him. As a young painter, Ryan was greatly influenced by Baroque, 19th Century French Realists, the Ashcan School and Film Noir. He studied painting, drawing, and printmaking at Sonoma State University, where he received his BFA in 2002. In 1999 he was awarded a scholarship to study in Italy at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze. Ryan received his MFA in Painting and Drawing from UCLA.

Nationally, his work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Chicago. He was part of a Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition, the Venice Biennale in 2015. His exhibitions have been reviewed in the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly, and his paintings have been featured in New American Paintings.

Ryan’s paintings are a part of numerous private collections across the United States, including the private collection of Dallas Price and Bob Van Breda. He is also included in public collections, such as the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Collection, The Art Collection at Levi’s Stadium, and the Orange County Museum of Art.


ARTIST STATEMENT

This series of paintings is based on candid flash photographs that interrupt the screening of movies in various Los Angeles theaters. I fuse tactics of street photography with traditional alla prima oil painting to reflect on notions of subjectivity, the gaze and psychic rupture. These paintings are meant to transform real space by situating the viewer between sight and its object. The intervention between the audience and the screen documents the moment that the observer becomes aware that they too, are subject to the gaze.

The painting is the original virtual artifact and the painter, the primary viewer. Alberti’s analogy of the ‘painting as a window,’ sought to explore the spatial relationship between the viewer and pictorial field. For Alberti, the picture plane was a veil through which the viewer gazed, but it was also a metric space by which all visual activity could be measured and represented. Painter’s perspective is thus rooted in a paradigm of reciprocity between subject and the object.

The role that the observer plays in the structure of the image is foundational to the philosophy of Naturalism. Conventionally, painters sought to establish continuity between viewer/pictorial space so as to virtually embody the observer. It is on the surface of the picture plane where these two irreducible vantage points become entangled. This is the essential condition for both subjectivity and objectivity in representation. Metaoptics, cartography, and contemporary pictorial narrative mediums are an extension of this format.

The movie theater is a public space designed for spectacle. Audiences gather, united by a common desire to be momentarily taken in by illusion. As a social space, modern theaters are democratic; populated with a random sample of people who generally reflect a larger demographic. Unlike theaters from antiquity, it is on the surfaces of screens that countless narratives unfold, imaginations engaged, social norms articulated, reinforced and challenged. Yet the pleasure we take in gazing at spectacles implies its reversibility. The populated theater functions as Real Allegory that explores the fantasy of the gaze, its reversal and resulting alienation, and the inherent instability of all representational activity.


FRANK RYAN ON RUBLEV COLOURS

My name is Frank Ryan and I am a Los Angeles based realist painter. I have been painting in oils for over twenty years and in this time I have tried most, if not all of the commercially available brands. Since I bought my first tube in 2014, I have been using exclusively Colours Artist Oils on my palette and have noticed a significant positive shift in the quality of my paintings.

When I was in school, my teachers always taught me to use the best paint I could afford in the belief that professional quality materials make all the difference. I tinkered with formulae from handbooks, experimented with mixing my own paint and glazing mediums, sizes and gessoes. I studied the works of baroque painters from library books and tried to reverse engineer their masterworks. I realized that the secret to unlocking my own potential as a young painter was the application of a physical knowledge. The more time I invested in understanding my materials, the more choices I had in determining the kinds of qualities I wanted to emulate. Yet, something was missing: the paints I was buying did not behave in a way that allowed me to achieve the same effects.

There was a point in time when I started to pay closer attention to the index codes on the backs of the tubes of paint. I had a very specific pigments that I was looking for and began to distrust the proprietary names of most commercial paint makers. I noticed that many of the brands I had purchased (Windsor Newton, Williamsburg, Old Holland, etc.) were selling convenience mixture hues by the names of historic pigments, and at imported prices. I chose Rublev Colours Artist Oils for practical reasons: Single pigment paints, domestic production, small business and locally owned, personable, dedicated and knowledgable customer service and most importantly, superior quality materials at a reasonable price.

In 2015, I attended a Painting Best Practices Workshop. During the three day seminar, I realized that much of what I was taught about painting in oils simply wasn’t true. For example, counter to what I had been taught, not only were solvents expensive, toxic and difficult to dispose of, they were unnecessary-even detrimental to the proper drying of paint films. I eliminated solvents from my practice altogether and this fundamentally changed the way I painted because I was using paint straight from the tube. I learned how to use a variety of different paint mediums, like the Velázquez paste medium (made with calcite and linseed oil) and Walnut Oil Gel mediums (made with Walnut Oil and Fumed Silica) to achieve glazes and translucent impasto effects. This new understanding of the history and underlying chemistry of oil paint had upended previous beliefs and opened new horizons to the possibilities of working in oils, greatly simplifying my process.

Each tube of Rublev Colours Artist Oils has its own personality: long and plastic, short and grainy, some colors are fluid, retaining the mark and some resist the stroke and level out. These paints behave nothing like the uniform consistencies of other paint brands. This invariance had inhibited my understanding of the nature of each pigment’s working properties. In the studio, I am judicious at every step because I understand what each pigment can offer, and its limits. I appreciate that Rublev offers a remarkably unique palette of historic pigments, including an unrivaled variety of earth pigments. As a paint nerd, it is a thrill to paint with genuine Lapis Lazuli, Genuine Vermillion, Stack Process Flake White and Lead-Tin Yellow, as these were primary palette of the baroque painters whom I so admire. I feel deeply connected to the traditions of painting through these materials and I am proud to be an Ambassador to Natural Pigments.