March Mostra 2016/ Meet the artists… Anne Ryan

Over the next few days we will be introducing you in turn to the six resident artists who will be exhibiting in the March Mostra on Friday 18 March. With one week to go, we went to see Anne Ryan in her studio to find out more about her and her work.

Anne Ryan (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

“I’m interested in the marginal, the minor, that’s where there might be something still to say or leave unsaid in painting.”


Anne Ryan’s work is concerned with how narrative in painting can open windows onto new worlds where uncertainty and ambiguity come into play. She has used images from Italian cinema and cinematography in the past, which often reference painting to such an extent that by using them as sources for new work she extends the loop between film and painting.  Furthermore, each day she moves through the landscapes of the city finding images, drawing Rome like an artist on a modern-day grand tour.  She edits and combines these findings to make watercolours, drawings and simple objects which are arranged in installations that explore new sets of narratives.

How do you start the process of making your work?

I’ve been walking around Rome every day, exploring the place and making drawings as I go. I wanted to get out and about and see the city, the everyday things in the streets and places like the Borghese Gardens. Some images come from these walks and some come from things like Etruscan pottery in the museums, some from Italian cinema as well.

I go backwards and forwards with my work, working on a lot of things at once so I can throw ideas around. I also wanted to do something new, because I’m only here for three months. I wanted to do something totally different to what I do at home. I’m a big oil painter and I didn’t want to do that here, I wanted to do something very different.

Is your working with watercolours new, or is it something you’re revisiting?

I have worked with watercolours before, but not much. I like it because it is such a fluid process and I can take it out and draw outside and make things quickly and easily. I’ve been doing loads of experiments with what I can do with it and where that might lead me.

From looking at your huge collection of work you seem to be interested in body shapes.

Most of the work relates to groups of figures in various situations. I think this comes from my interest in cinema – Italian cinema was my original reference. But I am also interested in the everyday, the normal, the things people usually miss. I’m not into beauty at all, maybe some of them become beautiful in the end, but it’s not about that. I’ve been exploring the movement in the paintings like something is about to change, like they are on the edge of becoming something else. I’ve ended up with is this big 3D drawing sculpture. There’s a very abstract quality to it, I’m going to lay it out like it’s a theatre, with sets almost, and groupings. It’s been fun making that.

And is that inspired/taken from Rome?

It’s been inspired by my walks around Rome, the museums, films, the cover of a book I’m reading about Naples, there’s a character from that. They’re not exact copies, I change them because I translate it, it all gets reconfigured from my memory in a sense, and so they change. These characters are meeting on that platform but they are all from different places.

And how does Italian cinema fit into your work?

It’s more like a mood or something that’s happening and I love to relate it to the real world. I like some of those films that seem to have no beginning and no end, it’s just like the middle runs on and on. To me that refers in a sense to the real world. I don’t want to take images directly from the movies, it could be more of an idea of what is happening, sometimes it could be a set of images that come from several different movies and then I’ll load them up into sharing the same space.

To me it is about the world I inhabit, not just about imagery from cinema and found sources. It’s almost like I suspend my thoughts and ideas I have about things and it becomes very real in a new way. In making the work I have been trying to break down the gap between drawing and painting, to make that space closer. In a sense, cinematography comes in there because I see it almost like drawing.

Cinema is great when narrative starts to break down and becomes a bit more abstract and then the story starts revealing itself slowly, it’s like when they’re leaving the screen and are no longer there but the story starts revealing itself and just flows. That’s the kind of narrative I’m interested in.

In London you said you work mostly with oil. Is your work with watercolour going to be something you take back with you?

I have so many ideas I need to go back with, so many ideas! I just need to stop myself now because I’ve started doing little things, and I only have three months here so I am going back with so many plans! I want to work on the floor with huge pieces of canvas and start pouring the paint and drawing with it. But there are common things too, between my work here and my work at home, drawing is always at the core of it.

Anne’s work will be exhibited alongside the other five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 19 March until Friday 25 March 2016.

Photo by Antonio Palmieri