In the studio: Pip Ryan

Pip Ryan is an Australian artist based in Naarm/Melbourne whose practice explores humour, irony and the absurd through drawing, sculpture, installation, and video. Her works present a multitude of imagined creatures and characters, including hybrid animals, disembodied figures, and darkly comical beasts. Through colour and playful forms, Ryan engages with dark and surreal subject matter, exploring the junction between the personal and the imagined world. She also collaborates with her sister, artist Natalie Ryan, exhibiting under The Ryan Sisters.

Ryan shares with Art Almanac her current thoughts and creative processes, as well as life in the studio during lockdown in 2021 and her determinations for 2022:

Pip Ryan in the studio working on Eight Snakes, 2020, and Prickly Pear Head Thrower, 2020. Courtesy the artist

The pandemic has thrown a huge amount of challenges at us all. It’s changed the way we interact and how we use and occupy space. Our lives have become sparser and more internal. Time has simultaneously slowed and accelerated in the most unusual way. It’s these kinds of in-between states that have been feeding into my current studio practice. During 2020 after the pandemic initially hit, Natalie and I moved out of our studios after not being able to access this shared space. We transitioned, like most, to working from home. This has impacted the size and materials I’ve been using. Unfortunately, it’s also meant we haven’t been able to work on our collaborative practice as The Ryan Sisters and have had to take a short pause. We have had to forego opportunities for shows and major commissions and, like the rest of the world, re-adjust to working from a distance – which has been a challenge.

Snake Charmer, 2020, watercolour, gouache, pencil on paper, 29 × 19cm. Photograph: Matthew Stanton. Courtesy the artist

My practice has always celebrated the absurd and elements of the grotesque; I love horror and humour, so my works generally sit somewhere between these two states. The lockdowns have sent my work into a much more ridiculous and fantastical space, with elements of the domestic creeping in. Patterns and repetitive mark-making have become a point of meditation. I’ve been predominately making watercolour and gouache works on paper. A lot of the works have been personal reflections to cope with some of the anxieties I’ve felt during the lockdowns. They are a combination of self-portrait works and re-imagined creatures and memories. Some of these forms have transitioned off the paper and turned into small sculptures, casting objects from the home and reassembling them into new manifestations. I’ve been so inspired by seeing people making over lockdown. Social media platforms have allowed us to stay connected, which has been wonderful.

Pip Ryan, The Sum of All Parts (Panel 7, Self Portrait as Carrot), 2021, watercolour, gouache, pencil on paper, 90 × 65cm. Photograph: Darren Tanny Tan. Courtesy the artist

For the last six months, I’ve been working as an artist in residence at the Creative Workers in School program through Regional Arts Victoria. I’ve had so many enriching experiences with primary school-aged children that have also fed into my works. I’ve been looking at many self-portrait works by artists like Lotte
Laserstein, Artemisia Gentileschi, Maria Lassnig and reading the brilliant The Mirror and the Palette by Jennifer Higgie; and listening to lots of podcasts!
It is challenging to plan for the year ahead with so many unknowns, but I’m hopeful that things will ease and start to open up. I’ll be moving from a city space to a more regional area and looking forward to seeing how the environment and space around me starts to slowly seep into my work.