Saturday 24 August 2013

Ryan Sullivan


Ryan Sullivan at Hydra Workshop.

I love this small gallery so this post is as much about the space as about the paintings.

Sullivan's paintings evoke small-scale phenomena such as rippling water, shifting sandbanks, wrinkling skin. But at the same time, they call to mind vast topographies and geological elements - pyroclastic flows or tectonic shifts. Scale is radically ambiguous.


The process of creating them is as follows: he lays out the canvases horizontally on blocks and douses them with pools of latex paint. He subsequently adds layers of enamel and lacquer until a 'skin' develops across the base layer, variously leathery and paper-thin. He builds up an outer layer of paint around the latex, while continually manoeuvring the canvas so as to cause the underlying matter to gravitate, slump or split. The shifting paint becomes a nexus of lines - a frozen moment in time.


Looking closer

Sullivan rejects the terms 'figurative' or 'abstract', stating: 'The painting is what it is. It's not about looking like something, but being something'.

He cites an artist's statement by Ellsworth Kelly from 1969 as a formative text. In this Kelly describes his transition away from figurative painting towards 'object orientated' art. His idea of the primacy of the object - 'in my painting, the painting is the subject' - is one which resonates strongly with Sullivan's work.


Form and content, process and product, are collapsed into a seductive singularity.

The space is a gem

rough, white-washed walls

red marble floor


black-timbered ceiling

Looking out.


  1. I agree about the space - it looks delightful. The artist obviously enjoys his processes.

    1. It's a beautiful little gallery. Sullivan's process reminded me of Jackson Pollock: the physicality of it, the getting totally involved.