The boneyard gallery – Ryan Bornen

For Ryan Bornen’s first solo exhibition at Hurstville Museum & Gallery, there was only one pre-requisite: ‘Keep it weird!’

Currently exhibiting in The Dragon’s Lair Gallery, The boneyard gallery features floor to ceiling colourful psychedelic works of monsters, beings and worlds straight from Bornen’s imagination. When you enter the space it quickly becomes apparent that Ryan’s work intends to overwhelm with colour, detail and quirkiness. These works are dictated and designed with what ‘felt right’ at the time, producing something unknown until it is done. Featured in the exhibition are also his original sketches which give an insight into his process from pencil and paper to being coloured digitally. Ryan recently took some time to answer some questions to delve in further regarding his techniques and art practice.

Can you give us an insight into your artistic process? Is your work pre-planned or created intuitively? How long does each work take to complete?

Each work will usually take about a week or two. Usually I’ll have all my previous works on a wall nearby so when I start a new work I’ll avoid repeating myself too much and it pushes me to try to make something different. The biggest part of the process is thinking about the balance and design of the work.


Art by Ryan Bornen.

Can you explain your technique; how you manipulate the medium?

My entire technique came as the result of a process of elimination. I wanted to remove the parts of the process I hated and add more elements of the process I enjoyed. I realised detail was something I had a great appreciation for, so I decided detail would be a core element of my style. I did digital art for a while but I didn’t like how it looked compared to hand-drawn art so I wanted to form a style that combined both elements. Mainly because the colour you can produce with a computer is a lot more vibrant, far more specific and you have the ability to adjust and experiment with colours on the fly. This approach allowed me to focus on the drawing/detail and line work during the preliminary stage then focus on the colour during a later stage of the process.

Sometimes I will have a few colour variations of a work and I’ll have to sit on it for a couple of days before I am sure about which one to go to as the final version. I love the control you are able to have with the digital part of the process because if something bothers me I can just change it.  The very final stage is the printing process which is an exciting part for me because I feel like I get to see the final realized version of the work for the first time. Usually I’ll print several different versions of different types of paper and it becomes a process of elimination to find the best looking version.


Art by Ryan Bornen.

A big part of using the digital colour is for demonstrating the potential within the black and white art. There is usually a lot of detail in the work and when someone sees it, it can be a bit overwhelming for the viewer to discern what is happening within the frame until I add the colour. Regarding the colour I try to keep the colours as flat as I can. Mainly because if I do something one way in the frame then that has to be done within the entire frame. I have to cut every single section I colour in the image out with the tracing tool in Photoshop. I’ll look at all the previous works to try to make sure I don’t keep repeating the exact same colour scheme for multiple works.

Sometimes I’ll leave certain flaws in the work like things not being coloured in properly because I find it interesting and because so much is going on most people don’t even notice. This is also because I find super perfectly executed works bland and repulsive because it feels too sterile. I want the work to look like it was made by a human being”.

Do you keep some kind of ongoing drawing book or diary? Or a collection of images or photographs for inspiration?

I have many drawing books but don’t usually sketch rough stuff out anymore for the reason that it’s better for me just to start with the intention of making it a finished work because if I do rough sketches if I try to do a proper version it will always come off different each time I try to do it. Most of my finished works started out as doodles in my sketch book. I used to collect reference images for inspiration but now I avoid being influenced by reference images because it ends up becoming too derivative and I feel like if I don’t use references then the work is more so my own.  I get inspired more so my documentaries about artists and hearing what they have to say about their work and their process.

Who are your favourite artists? Who do you draw inspiration from?

My favourite artist is H.R. Giger but I get inspiration from Vince Locke, Chris Mars, Simon Bisley , David Cronenberg, Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat  for the main reason that they were artists that formed their own styles. Most my colour schemes are actually inspired by colourful food and lollies. 

The boneyard gallery will be on display at Hurstville Museum & Gallery from 7 – 29 March 2020.

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