Working in oils, Ryan Martin composes vivid portraits and fantastical pastorals of young men and young women, often with young reptiles, young pachyderms, and young ungulates. A stylistic virtuoso, he uses smooth, groomed brushstrokes to render flora and fauna in electrified photorealistic detail while deploying broad, expressionistic flourishes of color and texture for background.
Martin’s paintings are titled after popular songs by artists such as 2Pac, Madonna, the Smiths and Led Zeppelin, and ostensibly serve as interpretations of each songs’ lyrics. At the same time, the paintings are imbued with an ineffable symbolic code, falling somewhere between the pagan and the biblical, the art-historical and the collective subconscious. Executed with a boundary pushing palette, the effect is placid yet jarring, threatening yet whimsical.
The canvases recall, in their way, the self-confidence of the late Italian Baroque: bold, lavish, dramatic, unabashedly humanistic and utterly devoid of cynicism. They remind us (thankfully) that the medium of painting will always and inevitably re-emerge from its periodic dormancies to offer ever-new creative frontiers for succeeding generations of artists to explore, interpret and express.