Monday, October 7, 2013

Mark Ryden by Agnes Yang

Mark Ryden is a contemporary American artist born in 1963. He is one of the most well known artist of lowbrow art movement. As a child, Ryden often drew people with “a third eye”, which annoyed and scared his teachers. His early career started as a commercial artist creating album and book covers. From 1998, Ryden started to make solo exhibitions including The Meat Show, The Tree Show, The Snow Yak Show, The Gay 90’s, and etc. Most of his artworks are paintings and sometimes sculptures and installations. His paintings are usually very delicate with the mysterious combination of sense of softness and eeriness. His work often features puberty girls, which refers to Ryden’s anima. Besides, he usually fills the paintings with meaning and occult symbols in a very detailed way, which fascinates me a lot because everytime I look at his work, I find something new.

The Apology
This painting is from Ryden’s exhibition The Tree Show. Ryden gained his inspiration about trees from the story of Apollo and Daphne. For him, trees echo life and reality and trees are life and reality---they “work in mysterious ways”. In this painting, the girl faces an upturned stump with one open eye in its center, as if she is talking to the stump. That eye in the center is so accentuated that I have to view the stump as a life. Furthermore, the painting is surrounded by branches and roots of trees in the frame, making these seems to come from the nature and goes into the nature.

This installation is also from The Tree Show. According to Ryden, this artwork is inspired by both Cernunnos in mythology, “a Celtic god associated with animals and the hunt”, and Daphne (“Even now Phoebus embraced the lovely tree/Whose heart he felt still beating in its inside”---from Metamorphoses). As always, the work is full of delicate details and meanings---the baby and the eye in the trunk represents the spirituality of the tree itself, while at the same time, the embroidery on the baby’s cloth represent nature---creating a interaction of nature and spirit. 

The Parlor
This painting from The Gay 90’s is extremely detailed and well-planned. Almost every element in this painting is explained in the study drawing. The parlor holds everything together, from birth to death, from the physical world to the spirit, creating a sense of integrity. The women on both sides are holding eyes, mouths, ears, and etc. ---the sensors of perception, and they are staring at the baby and the compass in the middle, as if they are contemplating about the nature of life and world. In this painting, the dominant rule of everything seems to be eternity---the notions of endless cycle appear repeatedly in many parts of the painting: the baby and the skeleton, the carving on the drawers, the divine female on the stage, the four objects one the ground, and the eye in the very center beholding all the things. 

                  Books: The Gay 90's and The Tree Show

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