Miranda Sawyer enters the wild imagination of celebrated British conceptual artist Ryan Gander, a cultural magpie renowned for his playful, cryptic and complex creations.
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When we're young we use our imagination all day, everyday. But
imagination is more than just make-believe. It's the magic that
makes the world a better place. Maybe that's why being a kid feels
so good. It's something we should never grow out of. That's why we've
launched Imagineering, an initiative to imagine and create a better
future, not just for our children, but for us all. For more information
visit gov. Uk/imagineering. What you have just seen isn't a real
Government advert. It's actually a provocative new artwork by
conceptual artist Ryan Gander. A cultural magpie renowned for his
cryptily, playful challenging works, he is one of the world's most
exciting artists -- cryptic. His prolific output is all about
storytelling and the power of ideas, with works that range across a huge
variety of styles and forms. The point of being an artist is that
you can do something different every day. Instigator, inventor. He will
pull the rug out from under the audience. There is conceptual art
and then there is Ryan Gander. Ryan is the real thing. With works on
show this summer in London, Tokyo, and Singapore, as well as a major
solo exhibition in Manchester next month, this film explores Gander's
unique artistic voice. Don't touch the artwork, bloody hell! How many
times have I told you? Amateurs! Like art world heavyweights Ai
Weiwei and Anish Kapoor Ryan is represented by the Lisson Gallerien
he's invited me to a private viewing space to see some of his larger
works -- gallery. What is that? Each one is a portrait of a person, a
significant moment in my life. So, it's a memory. They look like
abstract, gesturist painting like you would expect to see in a
gallery. But they're not actually the paintings. The paintings have
been destroyed. These are the palates I use to mix the paint on.
We can imagine the person from each? Exactly. They're different sizes so
you can envisage the sizes of the painting. Then the colours are the
colours that are obviously used in the painting and the amount of
paint. They're given the tools to imagine what a painting looks like.
One over there has loads of black and blue. I can imagine night-time.
Exactly. This one here, blue and pink. He I would imagine, well,
lovely blue sky and a lady in a pink dress, there you go. How traditional
am I! You are not trying hard enough. It's an idea based-work that
surrounds the idea of painting in a way. It's more about what we expect
painting to be. But the possibilities of what painting could
be if you think about it for long enough. And you take away all the
formality and history. Well, I recognise this young lady,
this young lady twice. She's a ballerina. You know when you go to a
museum it's almost like they're standard issue. He made 30 of them.
Every museum I go to I end up looking for her. Standing like this
sometimes. Different poses but she's always there. I started thinking
about it. About her role in the gallery and all the stuff she saw
from her plinth. All the people that she's seen looking at her. I thought
it would be nice to take her off the plinth. This is one of a series and
they're all different. One of them she is having a fag with a cross leg
leaning against the plinth and another she ease pushing the cube
across the gallery. I imagine if you were watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon
and went to a contemporary art gallery the artwork would probably
be a blue cube. You see what I mean? It's like a cartoon version of
contechary art. Whenever she's -- contemporary art. Whenever she's
shown she's shown with these objects. There's something really
sombre about her, because essentially she's bronze and is a
ballerina and those two things contradict each other. You imagine
she would be light on her feet and the fact she's always so heavily
stuck to her plinth and can't get up and can't move. There's something
really sad about it. So, it just feels like a natural role to give
her life. Is it important for you to know about art, about the history of
art in order to make your work? For me it's essential. To be well-versed
and eloquent in visual language and part of that is knowing the history
of art otherwise you are just using three-letter words and stuttering a
lot. Yeah. What about this work over here? Yeah, this is another one that
unravels a bit of art history. It's the Thinker's rock, Rodin's thinker.
That's Bruce Forsythe! What would be the thinker be without a rock, a guy
standing up, if you think about it. This is where he would think, where
his beautiful buttocks would preside? It's not a representation
of the original rock he sat on but it's more like the idea of it, that
he is stood up and left and then that very heavy tangible thing that
supported him and supported his thoughts, the thing that you never
think about, is left behind. Would you be happy for people to sit on
it, to wear it down a bit more with their buttocks? Depends if you buy
it, if you buy it you can do what you want with it!
Picasso once observed that every child is an artist. The problem is
how to remain and artist once we grow up. But Ryan may have solved
this conundrum by taking inspiration directly from his daughter, Olive,
transforming her play dens built from old brollies and ice-cream tubs
into expensive marble sculptures. It's one of the most enjoyable
works. They're so fun to make. It's everyday, isn't it? This is anever
day event in many people's houses and yet you have kind of taken it,
transported it into something else. It's just having your eyes open.
It's that moment of realisation, the moment where I move back from it and
looked at it and my eyes were open and my mind was turned on enough to
say, ah, that's actually brilliant. It's finding things that are
phenomenal, the phenomenon of everyday life. And for me that's one
of them, yeah. Even in works which are deceptively simple there's
always a rather poetic streak to them and attempt to make the world
appear a bit more magical. To make us aware of our own creativity, as
well as his. Ryan lives with his family in rural Suffolk, and works
out of this studio, a laboratory for what he describes as Idea Diarrhoea.
Basically, these are photos I take on my phone. I look the fact you
have, to sort. Down here, sorted. Public art. Mugs. Picture search.
What is picture search, what does that mean? Picture search, you know
when you go on to the internet and choose pictures... Is that raffia?
Yeah, chairs and stuff. Lamps, trees with meaning, hybrid tools. They're
odd categories. Well, not odd to me, I know what they mean. Trees with
meaning? Yeah, trees with meaning. I am going to show that one. See how
much meaning, there is only two of them. It's a thin idea at the
moment. But they are the beginning of something that will become art or
the beginning of something that's just in your head or what? Yeah,
well, the hope is that they'll become something. Some of these are
in there for three years, you know. The same with all the words on the
wall, it's there at the same stage, in a way. These are also categories.
Subjects of things that I am interested in. You can have all this
in your mind but can't keep it all at the front of your mind. It's a
constant reminder. This would slightly panic me. Does it make you
think I am a bit mad? You know when you get a murderer in a spare
bedroom in the mill am -- in the film... No, it would be one topic.
You are lots of topics, you are balanced. In one sense Ryan is 18th
century, it's all interesting. You are being presented with his
appetite in a way. And that appetite is very broad. Is this a kind of
process, are you working down to an end? They get a bit more sorted here
and then they turn into all this stuff over here. I need the
physicality of things to think about, these are candles with
duration, these last five minutes, two minutes, ten minutes. USB
sticks, that's something else I am trying to work out. Scratch cards.
The great artists interpret the age they live in. Ryan is one of those
kind of artists who actually pose the question of where our culture is
going. These are works that I am trying to bosh out. Is this where
you spend most of the time? Yeah, up and down here. This is where - this
is the last stage before they go to the studio in London. But
conceptually they get pretty formalised here.
Studio Gander in London represents the business end of Ryan's world and
with upcoming shows in Manchester, Japan, Sydney, Vancouver, and
Montreal, it's an extremely busy time. Ryan is being closely followed
and watched. His works sell for tens of thousands of pounds, up to half a
million for major projects. And maybe more. There is an element of
entrepreneurial. You are on laptops, making phone calls. You are all on
it, just like that. The people that we are dealing with are like museums
and, you know, massive galleries. And professional institutions. I
want to get it all done and make it good, you know, not just fart around
being whimsical about it. Very few of Ryan's works are actually
physically made by him. So he is his creative team have to find the right
craftsmen to realise all his ideas. I can't make everything and for
amount I want to do and varied materials or processes I want to
use, there would have to be 30 of me. We have fabricaters we use and
have relations with ten different people that do all that. A lot of
the works, it doesn't matter if I make them or someone else would make
them. The only thing that is really important is that they communicate
properly. It matters that the thing exists? And that it's what I wanted.
Ryan is an incredibly difficult artist to pin down and it's not
always easy to identify a work as being Ryan's. Everything is
possible. These trainers, they're prototypes. They're originals being
made in Tokyo, they asked us to make a couple of pairs of trainers.
They'll be commercially available in shops, although they'll be limited.
These are ones with what appears to be mud on them? Yeah. You know, when
you get your new shoes and keep them all white and you get the real
trainer buffs and they're like, I have dirt on my trainers! I thought
I would take that to a ridiculous level. These ones, have you seen the
A-ha video Take On Me? Of course I have They inspired these ones, all
sketchy. People might think where have you been, to Glastonbury or to
Finsbury Park and didn't realise it had been raining. It's like the
consequence of something. Yeah. These ones I like because I like the
idea that you have got this side. Double-sided. We often have a vote
here, we can do a vote guys. OK. I am going to hold up the muddy
trainers. Do we have any votes for muddy trainers? Shad Joey
trainers... -- shadowy trainers! That would be great if nobody put
their hands up for either. This is a cabinet! As if by magic. What is
within? I could not really see. That is the point, it frosts before you
get to it. It is like the portraits of the pallets, where you see the
pallet and your expectation of the imagery in your mind is what becomes
the image. It is my nose broken off. It is like
the Smith's song. And so it is - there's no hearing aid. All those
classical statues... You know what it makes me want to do? Back off a
bit. It is on a timer. I need a pair of binoculars.
He is a pranster. I wondered if you were going to interview me was some
weird joke. It is funny. Don't look back!
It is serious. There is something going on there, which is more
complex than that. As part of a big National Trust
project, Ryan's imagination has been let lose in the home of Erno
Goldfinger, the man who designed the trer lick tower.
-- Trellick Tower. It is funny having a museum in
somebody's home. You feel like you are prieing a little bit. Is that
what you felt? It was hard to make the show. He is a bit of a hero of
mine anyway. I like those people, who they think on a multitude of
levels and can swap skills. Goldfinger did toys. He wrote books.
He was an architect. A furniture designer. He was like a proper
genius. Proper, quick, sharp brain. Because it is a National Trust
property you cannot sit on a chair or touch anything. You cannot put in
anything that will mess it up. There is a painting here - it is a
painting of a dirty marks around a painting that was there. They took
the painting away and reproduced the dirt. An argument in historic houses
is, is the dirt of value? Was it his dirt? How far do you push it? He was
big into investigation into things. What art is about. Investigation
into trying to make a new language for art. I think it is a hugely
intelligent individual. So the book meets insol. It is one
of books that is too big to read. Another glass of champagne. I like
this because you cannot think of much more personal. You would not go
to a charity shop and buy shoes and find somebody else's insoles in
there. It is seeing two opposites and seeing how they collide
together. Seeing what sort of... So this is
his office. It is amazing, isn't it? This is His chess set and it fits
with the rest of the house. It is your chess set that you have made
The design for it is something my dad told me as a kid. He used to
work at Vauxhalls. He said the pieces from the underside of a bed
of a truck would make really great lovers. He was talking about these
two. Reinterpreted by my dad. It is this
weird proof success. They are logical and illogical coming
together to make sure which is functional. Most art is not
functional, is it? It is the new use of a memory as well. Exactly. I
thought this fitted here really well because both he was a great mind.
Sherlock Holmes played chess. All the great minds knew how to play
chess. The viker one, the dad, the mum and the prawns!
Again, terrible with chess! Ryan's booming international profile
means both he and his team are constantly travelling all over the
world. He personally plans and oversees the
installation of every new show or exhibition. And when time allows, he
likes to check up on some of his major public commissions.
Whilst also making sure that certain jokes haven't been Lost in
Translation. What Ryan does says with you. It
seems to cross borders incredibly well.
He throws ideas off. Idea after idea after idea!
Well, tonight is the book launch. And the book is? Arctic Cocktails
Running Gander, which is something I put together. It is like 60
different cocktails. Each one invented by a different artist. This
idea that cocktails are like art - it is just a drink, isn't it? It can
be both. Mixing a drink. Inventing one is like an artwork. Some are
very decent cocktails but some of them are purely conceptual. This is
incredibly conceptual! It is two different cocktails.
The idea of the artist cocktail sl highly soe -- is highly
sophisticated. It has a bit of Abigail's Party about it, as well as
some of the most glamorous spots in the world. The suburbia of Abigail's
Party is something Ryan is very familiar with, having grown up here
in chester. It is like the Wonder Years. It is nostalgic. That was my
house there. I guess when I was about 16, 17, I made art in the
garage. My dad cleaned it out. We would go and sit in there on a
Friday night and smoke cherry tobacco and make art. Where did you
make the leap to own another house like this to becoming an artist or
wanting to become an artist? That is a hard question. There was a friend,
called Max, he lived up the road. His mum made paintings. That family
was my introduction to art. The only thing I was really good at was like
having ideas and trying to make things happen. Like? Like going
around the estate here with a small business where we polished shoes, me
and my brother. Like opening a disco in the garage and selling cherry
yeaed for 10 p as a small business. If you grow up in an environment
like this it is very secure and enclosed, it gives you something
solid to spring out of t. It was colour and -- spring out of. If it
was all colour and noise, there would be nothing to spring out of.
He enjoys the position of his background with this kind of weird
Miami vice lifestyle he has as an artist. I think he enjoys the
friction between the two worlds. In a way I think maybe his work is a
bit like that as well. It is like putting togethers which are not
alike together. Ryan swapped his dad's garage for art school, getting
a first class degree, before heading off to the Jan Eyck Academie in
Maastricht. Over then you got an apartment, studio, technicians to
help you. Didn't pay fees. And I developed my own language as an
artist there. I went there making stuff that just looked like other
people's work. I came out making stuff that didn't look like anyone's
work. When did you sell your first piece of work? 2005. It was called
Is this Guilting you Too - Car In A Field. It was frozen. It was dawn.
It was like a mystery where you could not work out whether there was
somebody in the car or not. It sounds like you know those things,
somebody is dead in the room and there is just water on the floor. It
was based on that. Would you say you are to a certain extent restricted
by being in a wheelchair helps your imagination go to other places? It
is like being in prison, isn't it? People who write novels in their
heads. It is the same sort of thing. I mean, you could say that, but you
could equally say, being in a wheelchair has influenced my work as
much as I came from chester, I grew up in suburbia, I wear glasses. It
has to be about the world and all the good things in the world.
A part of the world Ryan is attached to is lan lan in -- of Llandudno in
north Wales. I love the cliche that all the British stereotypes seem to
be pushed out of Britain to its edges and they all remain along the
coast. Every time! There was a work that I
made that features this town, that is called I Walked Alone. About a
family from London w a girl. Somebody happens to the family and
they go on a witness protection programme and they move to
Llandudno. I made posters, I did casting shoots, but I never made the
film. It went through the process of going going to make a film without
making a film. That was the artwork. Ryan is here to install an
exhibition at the Mostyn Art Gallery. It is a small show, but one
which means a lot to him. The last show I did was in Tokyo. The next
one is in Singapore. This one is in Llandudno. This is the one I am
enjoying the most. Because it is here, it is the region where I am
from. All my mates from Chester are here, surrounded by people I love in
a very familiar place. It feels like a home-coming.
I cannot think of anybody that goes at it harder! If he looks like he
has an urgency to get things done... I care about the contribution that I
make to a bigger history. So, these are like tiny drops in the
ocean. The bigger picture is the history of
art. That's the thing that I most
actively think about, worry about. With a view to helping others shape
art history too, Ryan has ambitious plans to open a pioneering art
school near his home in Suffolk. So, Ryan, you have got loads going
on. You have a show in Manchester, around the world, you are constantly
making work and you have this as well. The idea is it is a charity.
People would apply and there'd be a board that would select based on
need and based on potential. And they would come here and they
would stay for six months and, you know, they wouldn't have to have a
job, they would just make art. It is that opportunity that I had when I
went to Maastricht, in a way. That doesn't exist in Britain. I mean,
you know this better than anyone, the best export, the best culture,
like music, like film... Fashion, art... And there's no provision to
make sure the future of that is secure. It is because it's not
really quantifiable in people's minds that culture can be an asset
to a country. You know? So, another little project to add to the list of
projects. MUSIC: "Hotel Room"
by Richard Hawley Now, unless you want to miss out,
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Miranda Sawyer enters the wild imagination of celebrated British conceptual artist Ryan Gander. A cultural magpie renowned for his playful, cryptic and complex creations, Gander is one of the world's most exciting young talents whose creations can sell for up to £500,000.
It is a big summer for this Chester-born innovator with works appearing at the Royal Academy and Hayward Gallery, exhibitions all over the world, as well as a massive solo show opening in Manchester in July.
Sawyer explores the extraordinary diversity of Gander's art, spanning sculptures that tinker with art history, chess sets made from car parts, fantastical cocktails and even designer trainers. A charming and witty raconteur, Gander challenges our preconceptions about conceptual art while imparting an infectious enthusiasm and curiosity for the world around him.