Tracy Ryan – Insight into the Artist’s Studio

Tracy Ryan

Tracy Ryan is an experimental artist hailing from Glasgow. After gaining her BA Visual Arts degrees with Honours in 2011, she has continued to focus on her practice and create new bodies of work. Ryan often works with reoccurring themes, including time, nostalgia and communication. Her most recent works have shown a nod to Pop Surrealism. Recently, she has also begun illustrating for us here at Hanna.

Here’s what she has to say about her artwork:

“I am inspired by life and everything that helps to create our world. So in that sense, I feel like I have non-ending inspiration! I am often interested in people and animals, as I believe these are our strongest attachments in life. My inspiration comes from various things. Sometimes it can be the interest found in an aged object, and at other times it’s as simple as people watching. I am very influenced by my surroundings. Glasgow is quite a busy and eclectic city, and I find a lot of interest in observing our individuality, as well as what makes us Glaswegian.

“I am also inspired by fashion and trends (past and present) and again this comes back to my interest in how we communicate as people. Like art, fashion is a liberal way of communicating with the world. I am interested by what we choose to put on our backs and what the latest must-have is. Personally, I love aged things with character and story to them, but I also find interest in our increasingly modern and throwaway world.

“With my art practice, I sometimes look to breathe new life into the unseen or uninteresting, to capture my vision at that exact point in time, or nod a little to the past. I feel we can learn from the past, live in the moment and be intrigued by the future.

Tracy Ryan

‘This Blue City’

“I would say that I am a very experimental artist. I do not like to stick to using one medium. Instead, I tend to take quite a playful approach, with many different materials. Once I have found what I think is the best material to convey my idea, I will begin working and experimenting again with that. In my most recent works, I have begun using collage again and combining this with ink, watercolour paint and pen. I like working in this way, as I feel very hands-on with my work, as I am cutting, gluing, composing, painting and drawing all in the one piece. I like to put a lot of myself into each individual artwork.”

“Some of my recent group exhibitions include ‘This City’ and ‘This City 2’ (in Glasgow); ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ (London); and ‘Heid’s Up’ (Glasgow).”

Tracy Ryan’s work is currently held in private collections within the UK, North America and Australia.

You can also view Tracy’s work/get in touch via the following links:

Tracy Ryan

‘Birds in her Hair’

Annette LePique’s interpretation of Tracy Ryan

In Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, one of the doomed Lisbon sisters is described as “a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she’d fly.”

Though this particular strand of dreaminess is only ascribed to one sister, all of the girls in the novel are lost – doomed through their own understanding of a world in which they would never belong. The question of belonging becomes paramount as they retreat into their own private worlds of fantasy, depression and imagination. The tragedy of the Lisbon sisters is that no one in their lives understood what it meant to be a young woman in a world built around the objectification and marginalisation of female bodies. This is the condition of the girl alone in the world; someone who doesn’t own her own body, mind or ideas.

Tracy Ryan, a young artist from Glasgow, creates art that combats such patriarchal notions; her practice brings young women to an inclusive space of support and understanding. When you engage with one of Tracy’s pieces, there is the instinctive sense that she understands; she’s like us, someone we like, someone we know. A sister at a distance, but a sister all the same.

Tracy describes her body of work as experimental – an apt descriptor for her use of mixed media and collage. Interestingly though, collaging has a long artistic history situated within revolution (Hannah Hoch’s Dadaist collages challenging what it meant to be a woman under Weimar, Eileen Agar’s inclusion with the Surrealists as an artist and maker of her own terms, etc.) It is also a practice that has been firmly gendered – the word ‘gendered’ referring to the perception of collaging outside of history. In the present, collaging is thought of as something youthful and feminine; what girls do to adorn diaries and bulletin boards, a decorative and frivolous practice.

In addition to the fact that such a conception of the collage is blatantly misogynistic, it also divorces the girl’s body from the potential for revolution. To propose such a schism, to put it mildly, is short-sighted. Throughout history, female bodies have been the sites of major cultural wars and societal changes. Such is the tradition that Tracy Ryan continues through her mixed media collages, colourful depictions of women (‘Windy’, ‘Keep Looking Up’, ‘Birds In Her Hair’) outside of space and time. Tracy’s depictions of women serve to show the beauty and power of the female form, exploding with colour and light.

While my time with Tracy’s pieces has undoubtedly been informed by my own experiences as a young woman within American art circles, I do not believe such experiences to be hindrances towards a fuller understanding of Tracy’s body of work. When I view a piece such as ‘Birds In Her Hair’, I see someone I could know or have known; a person who knows what struggles life can bring and who’s inner vitality shines through like a ray of light. When I study Tracy’s works, that hint of remembrance brings forth the aforementioned need and desire for connection; her work creates a space for community.

Words: Tracy Ryan and Annette Lepique
Images: Tracy Ryan


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