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Banner image: Bound by things, 2023 & Confounded by choice, or, You are demanding already (Dramaturgical framework for structure and stability), 2019

Photograph by Dawn Blackman
Installed in: Ryan Gander: Feelin’ everythin’, whilst doin’ nothin’; The Little House, Dries Van Noten, LA; 14 February – 25 March 2023

Early Inspirations and Academic Foundations

From his early days in Chester, England, Ryan Gander‘s artistic journey was markedly influenced by his exposure to the world of art, an experience ignited by his father’s introduction to one of the pioneering British Art Shows. This exposure not only broadened his understanding of art as a dynamic form of expression but also laid the groundwork for his lifelong engagement with artistry. His family’s background, with his father’s role as a planning engineer and his mother’s involvement in education, infused Gander with a distinctive perspective that permeates his artistic creations, blending technical precision with educational insights to produce thought-provoking art.

Gander’s academic pursuits at Manchester Metropolitan University were a turning point, marking his deep dive into the realms of interactive art and conceptual thinking. The knowledge and experiences gained during his subsequent studies in the Netherlands at the Jan van Eyck Academie and Rijksakademie not only sharpened his artistic philosophy but also connected him with a community of artists that would challenge and refine his creative process. These academic milestones were instrumental in shaping Gander’s unique approach to art, where intellectual rigor meets a relentless curiosity to explore and question the conventional boundaries of artistic expression.

The thermals made me lazy, or The squatters (Smoky meet Monk’s Deflated Sculpture II (2009)), 2020
© Ryan Gander; Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery
Photograph by Ryan Gander Studio

Ryan Gander
Photograph by Benjamin McMahon. Courtesy of the artist and the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Ryan Gander: Artistic Philosophy and the Power of Play

Describing himself as a “neo-conceptual no-style-style amateur philosopher,” Gander’s artistic approach is an intriguing exploration of the unseen, the overlooked, and the seemingly mundane. By weaving together disparate ideas and objects, he crafts narratives and puzzles that invite the audience to engage, question, and explore. This method not only challenges the traditional perceptions of art but also transforms the viewer’s engagement with the artwork, turning passive observation into an active, exploratory experience. Through this, Gander emphasizes the role of conceptual thinking in art, where the value lies not only in the object itself but in the ideas and dialogues it sparks.

The themes of playfulness and imagination, particularly from a child’s perspective, are central to Gander’s work, underscoring his fascination with the boundless creativity and uninhibited perspectives of children. By channeling this childlike wonder, his art challenges adults to revisit their own perceptions and engage with their environment and the narratives within it in a more open and imaginative way. This not only adds a layer of depth and engagement to his work but also serves as a reminder of the potential for creativity and discovery that lies in viewing the world through a lens of curiosity and openness.

By physical or cognitive means (Broken Window Theory 25 March), 2019
© Ryan Gander; Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery
Photograph by Ryan Gander Studio

Fieldwork 2015, 2015
© Ryan Gander; Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery
Photograph by Jack Hems

Navigating Recognition and Creative Diversity

Receiving numerous accolades, including an OBE for services to contemporary art, Gander views these recognitions as moments of reflection rather than the driving force behind his creative endeavors. Such honors provide an opportunity to ponder the impact of his work within the broader landscape of contemporary art, serving as affirmations that motivate him to continue pushing the boundaries of creativity and exploration. Yet, it’s clear that Gander’s artistic drive is fueled not by the pursuit of accolades but by an intrinsic passion for exploring new creative territories and challenging conventional narratives.

Gander’s versatility as an artist is evident in his adept navigation across various mediums, from sculpture to installation to writing. His choice of medium is invariably dictated by the concept at hand, with each medium offering distinct possibilities and constraints that align with his creative vision. This fluidity in medium selection is pivotal to Gander’s practice, allowing him to articulate his ideas in the most effective and impactful way. Whether it’s a sculpture, an installation, or a written piece, Gander ensures that the chosen medium resonates with the concept, enriching the viewer’s experience and engagement with the artwork.

School of Languages, 2023
© Ryan Gander; Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery
Photograph by George Darrell

Ryan Gander: The Public Realm and Interdisciplinary Synergies

Gander’s public art installations, like “The Happy Prince” in New York City, highlight his intent to engage with a wider audience beyond traditional art spaces. By situating his work in public realms, he introduces moments of disruption and contemplation within the routine of daily life, encouraging passersby to engage with art in an unexpected context. This direct interaction with a diverse audience allows Gander to extend the reach of his artistic conversation, making art accessible while imbuing public spaces with layers of meaning and opportunities for reflection.

Balancing roles as an artist, educator, and curator, Gander sees these diverse responsibilities as mutually enriching, each offering distinct perspectives and insights that inform and enhance the others. Teaching connects him with emerging talents and fresh ideas, while curating offers a platform to explore artistic narratives from a different vantage point. This interplay of roles not only broadens his artistic horizon but also deepens his engagement with the art world, fostering a holistic approach to his creative practice and ensuring that his work remains dynamic, relevant, and deeply interconnected with the evolving landscape of contemporary art.

Sowing confusion amongst the titles, or The squatters (Tiger meet Hiller’s Lucidity & Intuition: Homage to Gertrude Stein (2011)), 2020
© Ryan Gander; Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery
Photograph by Mark Waldhauser

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