On Tuesday December 10th, we were honored to welcome artist and entrepreneur Rob Ryan to the YCN Shop & Library.
First and foremost a fine artist, Rob Ryan has spent years developing his trademark paper cut pieces, before moving on to work with other materials such as ceramics, textiles and jewellery. His creative empire now extends to supplying stockists from all over the world with his wares, which can also be purchased from his RyanTown store on Hackney's bustling Colombia Road.
As part of our Reading Lists series of talks and events, we invited Rob to share six of his favourite books with an assembled audience of YCN Members.
The talk began with Rob introducing an unofficial addition to his reading list - his mother’s prayer book. Recalling his Catholic upbringing, it was explained that the weighty volume was often used as a way to occupy a young Rob during long church services. He was, and still remains, fascinated by the book, citing the intense detail of the classically painted Biblical tableaux found in its pages as an early source of inspiration.
1. The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
Rob explained how an encounter with several of Maira Kalman’s titles in a bookshop on Charing Cross Road led to a lifelong appreciation of her work. He enthused over her unrestrained illustration style and the inventive approach she has taken to displaying text in her many storybooks. The first book on Rob’s list is brimming with Kalman’s observations on modern life, expressed through her drawing, writing and photographs.
2. RFK by Paul Fusco
Shortly after his assassination in 1968, Robert (Bobby) F. Kennedy’s body was transported by train from New York to Washington, D.C. Photographer Paul Fusco was a passenger on the train, heading to the nation’s capital to document the funeral. However, along the way, he became more interested in documenting those that lined the train tracks to pay their respects to the former Senator.
Rob praised Fusco for capturing a cross-section of the American population at the time, with people of all colours and creeds coming out to bear witness to the train as it crawled through the city, suburbs and countryside. He mentioned how he will often revisit the book just to look at the different facial expressions of each of the mourners.
3. Charlotte: Life or Theatre by Charlotte Saloman
Following the tragic events of Kristallnacht, Charlotte Saloman, a German Jew, fled from her home in Berlin to live in the South of France. Whilst she was there, she penned an illustrated autobiography, in some ways inventing a form of graphic novel in the process. Rob gave a special mention to Saloman’s cinematic style of graphic storytelling, and pointed out how her work adapts to a more urgent pace as the story progresses, almost mirroring the proximity of the Nazi forces from across Europe.
4. And I Still See Their Faces: Images of Polish Jews by Fundacja Shalom
Rob’s fourth book is a collection of photographs of Polish Jews who were tragically killed during the Holocaust. The book celebrates their lives through images saved from, or found after, the Second World War, which are published alongside stories of the subjects written by those that knew them. Rob’s “fascination with life and people” ensures this book earns a well deserved spot on his reading list.
5. The Annotated Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
Unlike the rest of the books on Rob’s reading list, Edwin A. Abbott’s is, bar a few diagrams, not a picture book. Instead, it is an allegory for Victorian society set in a two-dimensional world populated by geometric shapes and lines. Upon reading it, Rob recognised the moment when the protagonist (a square) is introduced to a sphere from another realm as being as incomprehensible an experience as our discovery of another dimension.
6. Caspar David Friedrich published by Taschen
Rob’s final book is a monograph of the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. The level of detail found in Friedrich’s compositions, which often feature figures standing in front of misty landscapes, have been a constant source of inspiration for Rob. His interest in Friedrich’s body of work has led Rob to seek out the work of his contemporaries, which he has in turn found equally inspiring. “If you’re interested in something”, said Rob, “then just one thing can draw you into an exciting world that just keeps giving and giving”.
These books have now been added to the Lending Library at 72 Rivington Street.
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Location:72 Rivington Street,
London, EC2A 3AY,
Start:10th December, 2013 at 6:30pm
End:10th December, 2013 at 8:00pm