To demonstrate the broad approach of his practice, Ryan has exhibited a selection of collages, furniture and textile art as one of the artists representing UK at the World Event Young Artists, which brought 1000 artists all under the age of 30 from across the globe to Nottingham for a 10-day finale to the Cultural Olympiad. Now, Ryan is holding his biggest solo show, which you must visit!! Open at Vyner Street Gallery from October 1st! GO.
Who are you?
Ryan Dunn. Born in Margate. Graduated from BA Multi-media Textile Design at Loughborough University in 2006 and MA Industrial Design at CSM in 2008. Currently living and working in London.
Your designs are really broad, from textiles to furniture to industrial design, which you studied at CSM… Tell us more about your work.
Throughout my time at university and in my work since graduating I’ve always strived to work across a wide range of media and processes. One of my tutors at CSM, Prof. Ralph Ball, used to say that form should follow idea and this is the approach that I try to take with my work. Although I studied diverse design disciplines at BA and MA level my work was usually located somewhere on the boundary between art and design, and since graduating I’ve occupied myself solely with art.
The tutors at both Loughborough and Central Saint Martins encouraged students to innovate with materials and processes while developing a multi-disciplinary approach in our work. I had a fantastic three years at Loughborough but as I reached the end of the course I wanted to branch out from textile design so decided to apply to study MA Industrial Design at Central Saint Martins. The MA Industrial Design course at CSM was brilliant and during the two years I learnt a huge amount about key issues relating to contemporary design – ranging from practical concerns such as bike security and energy conservation, through to philosophical issues such as personal wellbeing and emotional durability.
What and who inspires you?
I’m interested in society’s relationship with material culture and the underlying assumptions, aspirations and expectations about design that shape this interaction. I seek to challenge the unattainable perfection displayed in contemporary lifestyle media and the utopian relationship with consumption promoted by the world of advertising.
My work reconfigures and subverts of imagery from everyday life to create strangely normal objects and compositions that provoke a sense of cognitive dissonance in the viewer. My aim, especially with my recent collage art, is to create pieces that are initially absurd or humorous but become quite sinister upon further reflection. However, despite any serious subject matter, my primary intention is always to produce work that is visually arresting and mesmerizes people. There are a lot of fantastic collage artists around at the moment and it’s a very exciting time to be working with the medium. I’m a big fan of collage artists such as John Stezaker and Sean Mackaoui, and would recommend that anyone not already familiar with them to check out their work.
How was it to be a CSM student?
I had a fantastic two years at CSM. My fellow MAID students and I were fortunate to be taught by some brilliant tutors who continually challenged us to question what it meant to be an industrial designer in the post-industrial age and how our work related to wider issues affecting society. It was also great to work and mix with students from such a wide range of countries and backgrounds. I’m just disappointed that I missed out on the chance to study at the new Kings Cross site by a couple of years.
Any cool projects you done at school that you go back to even now?
I still go back to my final project from Central Saint Martins a great deal especially as the themes that I began to investigate then still influence my work. The project was a philosophical investigation into the tendency for electronic objects to be designed with an excess capacity of function that vastly exceeds the performance required by users in their daily lives. My research resulted in a series of conceptual chair designs that serve as visual analogies for excess functionality in consumer electronics and highlight the absurd wastefulness of feature creep. Following graduation from Central Saint Martins I began to develop these themes into a more general critique of society’s relationship with material culture that forms the foundation of my current work.
What are your most cherished memories?
I am very proud of the MA Industrial Design exhibition at the Milan Salone Satelite in 2008. Thanks to CSM’s global reputation MAID had been given a stand free of charge by the show organisers for us to exhibit our graduation pieces. However, with such a large number of diverse research projects we had a challenge to devise a way to fit them all into the exhibit in a coherent way. To get around this problem I suggested that, having been given the stand, it would be quite cheeky to then not exhibit anything at all. I proposed that instead of exhibiting tangible objects we could reproduce our work as a stereoscopic installation as a wry comment on the virtual nature of industrial design in the post-industrial society. Visitors would then be given 3D glasses with which they could view the work. It took a lot of persuasion to get everyone in the course on board, as some people were understandably apprehensive about going all the way to Milan but not exhibiting real objects.
However, once everyone got involved we did an amazing job of designing and building the installation. One of the guys on the course taught himself how to create stereoscopic images using a homemade camera slider and Photoshop red/blue filters. We then set up our projects in the MAID studio, carefully photographed the installation in sections, constructed the 3D images on Photoshop and printed the complete image as a series of panels. A few thousand pairs of 3D glasses were then ordered and printed with the MAID course logo. And finally everything was loaded into a van and driven to Milan.
The exhibition went down a storm with exhibition visitors. At times the crowd would stretch across the front of the stand four people deep and we quickly had to start rationing the 3D glasses. My Italian course mates were interviewed by Italian TV and were received loads of offers to take the show on the road to places like Warsaw, Paris and San Francisco.
CSM kid is …
A creative, cool, open-minded global citizen.
What are you working on now?
I’ve spent the summer preparing work for World Event Young Artists that opened in Nottingham on 7 September. WEYA brought 1000 artists all under the age of 30 from across the globe to Nottingham for a 10-day finale to the Cultural Olympiad. As one of the visual artists representing the UK, I exhibited a selection of collages, furniture and textile art that demonstrated the broad approach of my practice. I was very excited to finally get the chance to exhibit at WEYA a work called ‘Nelson Shirt’ that has taken over six years to develop into a finished design. I originally sketched out the idea for Nelson Shirt in my third year at Loughborough, developed the idea into a workable design while at Central Saint Martins and then have slowly constructed the work over the past four years since graduating. It has been the most problematic piece of work that I have ever made so I was very relieved to finally see it on display.
Quickly following WEYA my largest solo show to date will open at Vyner Street Gallery on 1 October. My recent shows have all focussed on one aspect of my work – collage, furniture, textiles or photography – but for the exhibition at Vyner Street I’m going to throw everything in.
What would be your most epic project in future?
I would like the opportunity to travel and exhibit overseas. The best thing about WEYA was getting to exhibit alongside and network with artists from all over the world. I hoping to stay in contact with as many of the other artists as possible and will maybe get the chance to exhibit with them again in the future. A second festival is planned to coincide with the Rio 2014 Games, however, sadly I will be too old to take part.
You are happiest when…
Playing hockey for my club at Mile End. Rummaging through old magazines in charity shops and boot fairs. Working in my studio late at night. Cycling around East London. Or standing in a muddy field listening to Britpop.