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Welcome to Ryan Town

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Exeposé Books talks to the ever popular extraoardinaire of the paper-cutting world, Rob Ryan…

Photo Credit : The Guardian
Photo Credit : The Guardian

The idea of paper-cutting constituting fine art may sound surprising. Surely that’s what you got up to as a child, bringing horror to your parents as they watched you turn the floor into a flurry of paper snowflake offcuts. However, London based artist Rob Ryan succeeds in turning this simplistic art form into something beautiful and intricate that tells magical stories.

Rob reveals that he discovered paper cutting in around 2000. Having studied fine art at Trent Polytechnic, followed by printmaking at the Royal College of Art, he had previously specialised in screen-printing. Rob says that his work in paper-cutting has become more detailed over the years. Certainly, his pieces are incredibly intricate, with his complicated scenes often involving tiny stars and flowers that must be painstaking to create.

His words provide both poignant and witty accompaniments to his beautiful art. Sometimes just a few choice phrases go alongside his pieces, whilst at other times, as in his books, his pictures serve to frame and bring a focus to his story. Their poetic language and heart warming themes read almost like children’s stories or fairytales. But Rob doesn’t recognise these links in his work. “Fairytales are fucking mental and I don’t think my work really is,” he says whilst comparing the two.

Photo Credit : weebirdy
Photo Credit : weebirdy

When asked about his inspiration, Rob seems somewhat unclear as to how much autobiography is included in his work. He suggests “about 20 per cent” is based on his own experiences, having little idea about the other 80 per cent: “god knows where the rest comes from”. The huge variety of themes in his work, crossing the spectrum from love to loss, hints at a diverse source of influence. Fitting this, Rob acknowledges that “there are thousands” of artists and authors who inspire him, admitting “I’m incredibly easily pleased and amused.”

When asked whether he finds it difficult to keep up with the current demands on his time, Rob simply replies “Yes!!” His use of exclamations is hardly surprising. His recent workload is daunting to say the least, including several ranges of ceramics and a recent book release alongside collaborations with the poet Carol Ann Duffy and fashion designer Paul Smith. His designs have been used by Smith and have been featured in the pages of a host of fashion magazines including Vogue. Rob reveals having enjoyed the experience of seeing his work made into clothing saying “it’s genuinely exciting to see someone wearing one of your t-shirts!”

On top of all of this, Rob now runs Ryan Town, a London based art gallery and shop near to his East London studio. This is stocked with a variety of Rob’s work, from his small hand crafted goods to limited edition screen prints.

Luckily, Rob is committed to his art, revealing that he has enjoyed every moment of his career. Indeed, when asked about his favourite moment he says “I don’t have one, they’re all great!” With his work continuing to furnish almost every household item imaginable and his recent book, The Invisible Kingdom, being the first in a trilogy, keep your eyes peeled for much more from this incredibly talented artist and wordsmith.

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