Believe it or not, the painting above started with a photograph of a vine. The color, structure, and text were added layer by layer over a period of months before Answer Web was finished.
Artist and Art League instructor Beverly Ryan has been featured on this blog for her paintings, encaustics, and installations, and we encourage you to read our previous interview for some insight into her creative process and evolution as an artist. With her latest award for the “MiniMAX” exhibit, we asked her about working large and how this painting emerged on the canvas:
How did Answer Web come to be – what was the process?
Beverly Ryan: Answer Web was inspired by a previous painting, Memory Web, done in 2015. In both cases I referenced a photograph of a winter, leafless, entangled vine which I loosely drew with ink on the canvas. I then collaged canvas pieces onto the negative spaces between the drawn branches in some areas of the composition.
The web developed in the next layer. Painting in acrylic, I explored scale changes and color variations. Text was added in acrylic paint then camouflaged – “I Ching” readings provided the content.
It sounds like a logical plan but was not. The nuances make the painting, I think. Enriching color, varying the clarity of the text, creating dynamic line movement – the painting emerged intuitively, as I returned to it and changed it over a period of months.
Where did the web motif come from and what keeps it coming back?
The web motif comes from my fascination with triangles used in manmade structures – steel trusses, tetrahedrons in geodesic domes, oil derricks, construction crane frameworks. I stumbled onto a way of creating a dynamic painted web structure while working on my painting Salamander Mandala and have continued to explore it in later works (The Bridge, Memory Web, Answer Web). In Memory Web there is a painted web as well as a textile web sewn to the canvas. This interest in metal structure inspired me to take an Art League metal sculpture class with Brian Kirk.
This is the second year in a row you’ve won Best in Show for large works. What is different about painting large? What makes a large work successful?
Painting large excites me. It provides space for big moves, and requires a confident approach. There’s a sense of commitment in working large that appeals to me.
A large painting is successful, in my opinion, when it embodies a cohesive, compelling message. This message can be ambiguous but needs to hold the viewer’s attention. I look for energy, freshness, interesting use of materials, and a result that brings the viewer new discoveries each time the painting is seen. A large painting can surround you, can become a transforming experience.
What can you tell us about your 2018 solo exhibit at The Art League?
The solo proposal addresses my interest in drones – photography / surveillance, weaponry, privacy issues, related map imagery, their characteristics as objects.
Curiosity about the subject was my starting point. The visual forms expressing my questions first appeared in paint but have since expanded into collage, soft sculpture, steel sculpture, printmaking, drawing, and machine embroidery. The exhibit will be an installation. The ideas are flowing. The final form is yet to be known, even to me.
“MiniMAX” is open through Sunday, December 4.
Interested in studying with Bev? Check out her upcoming Art League classes.