Ryan Gander Part Two – The Artist’s Hand
This was our second look at the work of conceptual artist Ryan Gander. Previously we had focused on how this artist promotes the use of our imaginations through his work. In this session we looked to Gander’s process and how his many and diverse artworks actually come to be made.
I felt that after a summer break and with the addition of some new participants it would be good to begin by getting re-acquainted. I have often used ‘sensory speed dating’ as a way of achieving this, much like speed dating there is a limited period in which to get to know each other only here it is made more challenging by my request that all questions to the other person should link to the senses in some way (tying in with Making Conversations Multi Sensory approach to experiencing art). For example; What did you hear on the way to the gallery? What did your last holiday smell like? We were then ready for the discussion to begin.
We talked about the team Ryan Gander has working for him and how that team will also find subcontractors to help make the work. To start with everyone felt that this was a real luxury, a privilege to have a whole team of people to help realise all of the ideas you ever wanted. Then we realised how necessary this was, with works ranging from video to woodcarving and mechanical eyes. We also realised that in fact it put a lot of pressure on the artist as he is responsible for people’s wages. Also creating more and more work means it has to be shown and sold so as not to take up too much space. Debate around authorship and the importance of an artist physically creating their own work has come up a few times before at Making Conversation but this time the focus was on viewing contemporary artists as the business people they also need to be.
After our discussion it was time to explore these themes further by doing. I asked the group to divide into two groups and create a piece of work inspired by one of Ganders, working as a team. To begin each group had to find out what each person considered to be their strength or skill and use this knowledge to subcontract out the various bits of making required to create their piece.
Whilst the two groups were working I noticed first of all that announcing a strength or skill is something some people find very difficult to do. I also noticed that the two groups were working really differently as teams.
One group collaborated equally on one specific piece of work. The other group created a series of individual pieces of work, coming together now and again to lend a hand with something or provide a specific detail, like a drawn part or a sound track. It made me think about the role of the subcontractors and of Ryan Gander’s team. I wonder how easy it is to be working to someone else’s specific design all of the time, if there is any element of collaboration at the ideas stage? Both groups created really interesting work, there had been no right or wrong way of approaching ‘the task’. How each group achieved it was a reflection on the dynamics of that particular gathering of people.
The first group were inspired by Ryan Gander’s painted portraits, where instead of showing the paintings themselves (these have never been shown) he chooses to show the round clear plastic palettes, compete with blobs of paint, used in the making of each individual painting.
The group’s portrait was not shown either, some of us had tantalising glimpses of the mixed media relief of a face that was busily being created, but when it came to showing the work it had vanished. Instead we had a board with extracts of materials, the making ephemera, including a soundtrack of the sound of its own making.
The Second group re-interpreted the mechanical eyes, Magnus Opus in different, very individual ways. I had a conversation with one participant who was really keen to be able to draw faces about the importance of looking at what you are trying to draw, perhaps more than the drawing itself when approaching that particular representational style of drawing. He then decided to draw me. Someone else created a moving eye from basic kitchen equipment, jokingly calling it his good eye (this participant happens to be totally blind). Another small collaged piece had a more sinister theatrical feel to it and was presented with an accompanying tense soundtrack provided by another participant.