Monday, December 04, 2006

Art Space Talk: Mark Ryden

I recently interviewed artist Mark Ryden (with the help of Alix Sloan, his assistant.). Mr. Ryden was one of a handful of artists who helped spearhead a return to traditional painting techniques within the context of surrealistic imagery in the 1990s. His masterful technique, along with the content of his images, helped to give new life to this form of art.

Mr. Ryden is best known for his surrealistic images that often obtain subject matter that are loaded with images of popular culture. Mr. Ryden forces us to ask questions about our society by placing symbols of our cultural familiarity into unsettling circumstances. These works often seem like a disturbing reflection of the 1950s Golden Books. They are a fine mix of innocence and brutality.

Mr. Ryden's work captures a sense of childlike honesty. However, the 'toy land' he creates is not one of 'shoots and ladders'... it is a place that questions the behavior of adults and society in general.

Brian Sherwin: Mark, you seem to be a very busy man. Do you ever get a break from working and exhibiting?

Mark Ryden: I don't seem to ever take a vacation! I simply switch modes. I am not painting right now but I am very busy taking care of business in other ways. Life is so busy for me right now and my career is very demanding. I have so many "Non-painting" things to do. Much of this work is related to my self-publishing.

BS: Mark, what are your artistic influences? Has anyone inspired you?

MR: When I was young and in high school I was inspired by Dali, Magritte, and Bosch. I suppose this is fairly typical of most artists of my age (I was born in 1963). I eventually really got into Rosenquist and the pop artists. Slowly my deepest passion emerged as I began to look at more an more classic art. I really love early Flemish art. Some of my favorite artists now are David, Ingres, Carpaccio, Balthus and Bougereau.

BS: Mark, what trends do you see in the 'art world'?

MR: A small group of elitist individuals decide what is valid and what is not. These people overly intellectualize and academicize the arts to maintain their sense of superiority. This is not a new problem.

BS: Do you have any 'studio rituals'? Little things that help you to 'get in the mood', so to speak?

MR: When painting I like to listen to music that helps me focus and relax. I like movie soundtracks like American Beauty, I like Debussy, Pink Martini, Combustible Edison, Dead Can Dance.

BS: Mark, do you have any tips for emerging artists?

MR: I believe if you follow your heart and do what you love, success will follow. If you enchant yourself, others will be too.

BS: Mark, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the current 'art world'?

MR: I suppose I would say that it is really great to see representational art given respect again. For the last 50 years or so an artist could hardly paint anything representational with out it being looked down upon by the "Art World". In this past century, art ran a course to an extreme of minimalism and conceptualism and now things seem to be more inclusive.

BS: Mark, do you have any upcoming exhibitions?


Solo Exhibition - March 10th - April 28th, 2007
Opening Saturday, March 10, 12pm-6pm
Michael Kohn Gallery
8071 Beverly Blvd.Los Angeles, CA 90048

BS: Finally, where can we see more of your art?

MR: Just go to my website or

You can learn more about Mark Ryden by visiting his website-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page-- Thanks again to Alix Sloan!

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


Lacey said...

I've long been a fan of Ryden. I enjoy the surreal-realism, the quality of the images, and the narratives. Cheers.

Rick Petry said...

While Ryden's work can be disturbing, it contains a creative freedom that liberates the viewer. I am always fascinated to see how my children (4 and 7) react to his work. It is usually with a dropped jaw followed by delighted laughter as if they are being allowed to witness something forbidden that nonethless resonates for them just as it does for me. Thanks for the interview!

Anonymous said...

Sir Ryden is not a surrealist, sir Ryden is a stingy

Le duc de Trèfle
(The duke of Clubs)

Unknown said...

He has a raw softness that just captures you. He is truly a master!

Sylvan Management said...

thats really interesting about watching a child observe his work.

anyways, i love ryden. your art is rad!

Kate Lightfoot said...

Great post! Mark Ryden was the first pop surrealist artist I 'discovered' - it was such a thrill to finally find a style of art that spoke to me. Thanks for posting this interview. xxx scarlett