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Veronica Ryan

Born, 1956 in Plymouth, Montserrat

image of Veronica Ryan

A sculptor who emerged into notable visibility and prominence during the 1980s was Veronica Ryan, who was born in Montserrat, in the Caribbean. She availed herself of opportunities to study at various institutions, including, Bath Academy of Art, the Slade School of Art and the School for Oriental and African Studies. The 1980s was a particularly fertile decade for Ryan, who had a number of prestigious exhibitions of her work at venues such as Riverside Studios, London (19 October-13 November, 1988) and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (19 November-8 January, 1989). Veronica Ryan is best known for her sculpture. She makes sculpture that is evocative of shapes, forms, objects from the natural world, giving her work a distinct sense of the organic. Ryan’s work has made its way into a number of important collections of British art, making her one of the most important sculptors of her generation.

Her sculptures oftentimes sat on the gallery floor, or, in the outdoors, were positioned at ground level. In a number of instances, this placing emphasized the association of her work to natural forms, literally growing up from or at ground level, as well as hinting at domesticated beasts who eat from ground level troughs. Typical in this regard was Ryan’s work of 1988, simply titled Trough. Made from cast bronze, the work resembled a farmyard trough, made from a very soft metal that had grown misshapen through many years of use, but was nevertheless holding its shape. A certain sense of vulnerability and fragility in Ryan’s work was offset by the decidedly weighty materials she used in the making of work such as Trough. In turn, this unmistakeable sense of solidity and physical presence was perhaps offset by the use of such things as dried flowers, again (and perhaps self-evidently) evocative of plant-life and the natural world. The two compartments of Trough were generously filled with still-beautiful remnants of desiccated flowers, which though long dead, resonated with a sense of bounty, and a dreadful exquisiteness and splendor. Such was the sense of things living, things growing, things dying, and things being preserved, that Ryan’s work evoked.

“Veronica Ryan’s works, comprised of (sic) seed-like forms, also evoke a sense of location, dislocation and dispersal, through metaphysical allusions to birth, death and decay. Ryan’s enigmatic forms, scattered like seeds, appear frozen in transitional states of development amongst landscapes offering sustenance and potential fruition, as seen in her sculpture Territorial.” The work in question, here described by Mora Beauchamp-Byrd (and contained in the Arts Council Collection), resembled a terrible but fascinating mutant form of vegetation resonating with those plants capable of inflicting damage and death on its hapless victims. Again, despite the solidity of the materials used to make the work (in this instance, plaster and bronze), Territorial resembled nothing so much as a giant vegetative land mine, capable of devouring anything that flew too close, or came too close. The work did indeed conjure up notions of the territorial, with the sculpture’s triffid-like qualities.

Veronica Ryan’s work was included in the From Two Worlds exhibition at Whitechapel Art Gallery, 30 July - 7 September 1986. In the Queen’s Biurthday Honours of 2021, Ryan was awarded an OBE, for services to art.

Related items + view all 10

click to show details of A Bizarre Form of Anthropology

»  A Bizarre Form of Anthropology

Article relating to an exhibition, 1987

click to show details of From Two Worlds - catalogue

»  From Two Worlds - catalogue

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1986

click to show details of From Two Worlds - press release

»  From Two Worlds - press release

Press release relating to an exhibition, 1986

click to show details of Transforming the Crown

»  Transforming the Crown

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 1997

click to show details of Waldemar Januszczak | There is a world elsewhere

»  Waldemar Januszczak | There is a world elsewhere

Review relating to an exhibition, 1986

Related exhibitions

Related venues + view all 6

»  The Bronx Museum of the Arts

United States of America

»  Caribbean Cultural Center

United States of America

»  Fruitmarket Gallery

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America

»  Whitechapel Art Gallery

London, United Kingdom