Robert P. Ryan – Unknown Figures (2017) oil on canvas
Robert P. Ryan’s work explores themes of disconnection, loss and the uncertainty of identity.
He employs an oil painting technique similar to that of classical painters, while also being heavily influenced by the aesthetic of photography. The interaction of these two mediums and the cyclical influence that they have on each other is of interest and is employed as a continuation of the mother/child dynamic which is a continual undercurrent in the work.
The stifled poses, simplified compositions and colouring reminiscent of hand-painted photographs are all ways in which Robert P. Ryan brings photography and the aesthetic of its infancy, into his paintings.
The depiction of a cloaked female figure is drawn from a convention of early photography where mothers were concealed while holding their children during lengthy exposures. Draped in fabric, these figures are pushed into the background and cropped from frame.
Robert P. Ryan brings these figures to the fore and presents them. We are left to wonder who these people are and who are the children no longer present.
These ghostly figures are a representation of an absence; the ungraspable which seems perpetually present and yet always out of sight.