A Selection of Oil Paintings by Ryan Black from Summer, 2021
I love talking about art. I love jargon and references and challenging viewpoints and deciphering meaning in other artist’s compositions. But any artist that talks about or attempts to explain their own work is in disservice to this industry because, to paraphrase Francis Bacon, explanation doesn’t deepen the mystery. Everything to know about my paintings is either there on the canvas (or whatever the substrate), or it isn’t. Spelling it out will not make it better, just like a joke isn’t funny if you have to explain it. That said, a good dirty-joke will go right over the head of a child. And when it comes to art, the vast majority of people have that same level of child-like ignorance. I’m not saying my artwork is something special, or has some hidden meaning that only the art community can appreciate. I’m saying that all good art refers and reflects back, creating its time and place in the world. Bringing something to the table, as far as a basic understanding of aesthetics and art history will always make experiencing artwork more immersive and enjoyable. Good art is made for the people that have appreciation and knowledge. Its meaning isn’t hidden, just a very small percentage of people go looking for it. I try and make good art. Every painting where the motivation has come from me thinking the subject is salable, or that a wider audience would respond to it has been a failure. Those are the pieces that still hang on my walls as a cautionary tale, while the ones where the subjects interest and excite me all continue to find homes. But failure is valuable experience, and learning to trust myself as an artist is an ongoing lesson. If I had to give one statement about my education in art, and insight into the work I try and create, it would be that capturing and conveying a likeness, which used to be very important to me, interests me less with every passing day. Technology has given us endless ways to capture the objective world. I’m interested in a personal, subjective take. But old habits die hard. Hopefully it’s there on the canvas.