Sometimes, all it takes is half a look at a work of art to recognise the artist behind it and the message they’re trying to convey. That’s definitely the case with Ryan Falzon, who has been making waves in the local art scene with his ever-changing style. Now, Ryan is back with a new grittier exhibition set to conquer your heart… or break it.
Ryan is back with another prodigious exhibition, We Can’t Be Lovers. His latest will be showcasing Falzon’s latest works — a series of monoprint drawings stripped down from large scales and bold colours which make us want to cry from sheer happiness.
“Aesthetics are intentionally clean, while the images and text are borrowed from digital platforms,” Ryan told Lovin Malta.
“As in my other works, text adds to the narrative of the prints — along with the written statements next to harsh lines, accidental marks, hurried shading and delicate touches. Thematically, the works explore new ways of communicating, connecting, working, playing and loving.”
When asked what really inspired him to work on We Can’t Be Lovers, Ryan told us that a common characteristic in many of his works is the concept of duality.
His style has always been heavily influenced by collages and cut up techniques, where appropriated images present several realities or state on one surface.
When asked why his work is so incredibly sought after, Ryan told us what we already secretly knew in our heart of hearts “I’m told that a Ryan Falzon is spotted from miles away,” he smiled.
“I worked hard at developing a signature style that is unique — a style which like my personality requires a level of flexibility. The expressive undertones in the paintings and prints do not follow a rigid brief.”
“Good art comes from a good place”
Daily personal experiences have also triggered most of Ryan’s works in this exhibition.
“What I see as the state of duality we seem to be unconsciously living in — an anxiety induced by the feeling that while one is going on with daily life, a parallel life is happening online — one which you’re missing out on,” he said.
Ryan states that this constant switch between our realities often triggers within us a sense of isolation.
“Reality seems too much to handle, so we prefer to access it from behind a screen, where we create our comfort zone in the shape of a tailor made reality,” he said.
“Yet these are exciting times we are living in, times of change, where all of us are exploring new digital frontiers albeit without much guidance.”
Ryan tends to work mostly within a framework of themes and series which allow him to develop and explore his ideas deeply.
“I think about friends, lovers, ex lovers, heavy social issues, cool cars and tonight’s events and toss them all on canvas or paper,” Ryan told us. His work sometimes may look like a glitchy Facebook wall or Instagram feed, where simple, clean structures are regurgitated onto one gloriously cryptic image.
We couldn’t really help but ask Ryan what is it that torments his soul to produce such astounding art, but we were heavily disappointed to find out that nothing does.
“In We Can’t Be Lovers, images derived from the digital arena are given a human touch, illustrating emotions that are easily lost on screen,” he said. “There is no torment, no depression – the notion of the depressed artist crying his eyes out on canvas doesn’t work for me. Good art comes from a good place.” Damn you Ryan.
“Sometimes you feel like a full-on buffet, other days it’s classy fine dining or just a plain tuna ftira”
Since 2013, Ryan’s work has seen some serious changes. There was always a constant flair to his work, but this time, it seems like there was a change of style, and Ryan explains that this is due to the fact that he likes working on several ideas at the same time.
He likes to look at his themes from different perspectives. “These perspectives require different media to be visually effective,” he said. “I’m filtering my visuals — every single line, shade and text has a designated role. There are also what you might call other fixtures in my work, namely dark humour and an understated narrative.”
The evolution in Ryan’s work is an astounding one — from masculine scribbles at We Lost the War, to Pet Shop Boys inspired prints and now to this ethereal galvanised style.
When asked if this change was an internal or an external one, Falzon stated that it’s probably a mix of both.
“As an artist I cannot exist in isolation. You grow, your perceptions change and your art become a reflection of this.” he said.
Ryan however says that there’s another factor adding to this change, and that’s social media.
The constant bombardment we are facing due to our growing connectivity and dependency to our phones has had an effect on the young Maltese artist.
“These changes have caught us off-guard; they feel like they’re too fast to keep up with, like a shift in perceptions and norms. I’m trying to capture all this in my latest series of works.” Ryan told us.
Ryan’s work seems very intimate and candid this time around, almost jolting the senses of the viewer — speaking in volumes much stronger and louder than his previous works. It’s almost as if this wonderful artist is speaking in a different language.
In other words, We can’t be Lovers is as personal to Ryan as it is political.
“It comments on the trends in communication, relations on a wide scale as well as a recollection of personal experiences. There is a story behind each of the prints on show. The previous works made an effort to be stronger, bigger and louder. These new works are minimal when compared to my previous works, they play the sexy but witty part,” Ryan told us.
He hopes that these works will be easy for us to relate to, especially due to the fact that he wants to channel a younger audience.
“We all know someone whose posts are very basic, went on dates with people whose bedroom we studied inch by inch on Instagram. We were all left with seen messages and no answers and we all had our fair share of online induced triumphs and disappointments.”
“I’m being economic with my lines and text here, as opposed to the flamboyant approach in most of the earlier works,” Ryan explained. “Sometimes you feel like a full-on buffet, other days it’s classy fine dining or just a plain tuna ftira.”
Ryan is one of the very few people on the island who has successfully nailed being an artist. We speculated that maybe he sold his soul to Cthulhu or something, but he insists that art is a full-time commitment.
“Whoever bought my soul surely made a good investment,” he said. Ryan insists that one needs to practice, travel and keep up to date with international trends. Clearly his work comes through blood, sweat and very literally happy tears.
“Hard draft while others are at parties posting their fabulous lives on Instagram on Saturday night,” he said. “All the while, you have to nurse a massive headache from the solvents you‘ve been inhaling all weekend because you didn’t wear a mask.”
When asked about whether or not he cares about the way people perceive his art, Ryan said, “I think any professional artist cares about the way his art is perceived – otherwise why exhibit? Why not just keep it all hidden? If the work is out there, it needs to be good. The artist needs to assess where he stands with the audience.”
Sometimes people tell him that he’s exhibiting a lot for the local scene, but he says that as long as it is new, relevant work that’s not recycled, it’s good.
“If my work is being well-received and noted, even internationally, I want to keep on going. I will start worrying when I feel that my work has becomes irrelevant,” Ryan perfectly put it.
We asked Ryan the inevitable question which pops into our mind whenever we meet artists — does his heart break when one of his pieces finds its forever loving home?
“When working on a commission it’s much easier,” he admitted. “It’s like having a passionate affair and you give it your best because you know it won’t last long. I’m happy when I see my art displayed with pride.”
Ryan has a couple of collective exhibitions coming up, and the excitement is genuinely giving us boners.
Two solo exhibitions are coming up in the next six months, both locally and abroad. He will be exhibiting at the Valletta Contemporary, the Heike Arndt Gallery in Kettinge in Denmark and at the Ekeren Cultureel Centrum in Belgium.
But if you want to experience his latest in person, We Can’t be Lovers – which is curated by Michael Fenech – will open on 25th May at Iniala5, Valletta.