Back to the Future
With art in the veins, Ryan Bock produces a prolific body of work across a gamut of mediums ranging from painting through puppetry to experimental film with found objects and materials often thrown into the mix. Working in Brooklyn, Bock’s artistic endeavours, though abstract in their conception are socially conscious – considering the future and current predicaments of our race. We had a chat about his methods and madness – whether technology is making us stupid, living in an inherently visual world and painting as therapy.
Tell us about yourself as an artist and what you did before you came one…
I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life when I wasn’t an artist. However it may have just taken some time for me to realize it for myself. I was born and bred into this lifestyle. I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil… way before I could read or write. It was never a specific decision I made, it’s just occurred very naturally and was augmented with creative development and hard work.
Describe your working space…
Where I work doesn’t matter to me. The focus is always on the work – not its place of conception. It’s more important to me where my work is seen, within the context of a gallery or exhibit, then where the work is created.
…And your creative process from conception to execution
I have visions (some people call them ideas) and then I bring them into the world. The materials available to me at the time will greatly affect how my vision is actualized. I have to be resourceful – this is often why I work on found objects. Every idea/object is different and deserves its own process so I guess it’s hard to pinpoint a generalized creative process. I do sketch my ideas but often as a mere formality or to remind myself not to forget the idea. Often even sketching is unnecessary.
A common denominator of your work is the unique mishmash of geometric shapes and grotesque forms, often in monochromatic tones. How does this relate to your personality, emotions, and beliefs?
What you’ve described here is the common denominator of the aesthetic of my work- the visual language I use – not the concepts and ideas inherent within my work, though they are related. My beliefs are very personal and I don’t feel the need to share them in conjunction with my work in this way. I don’t like to press my beliefs on anyone anymore – that’s something I openly avoid. I think that if one were to take the time to look at my work – my personality, emotions and beliefs should be somewhat apparent… or as apparent as they need to be. The work should speak and stand on its own.
Your work emanates a healthy skepticism of technologies, can you tell us a bit more about the threat you think tech poses… to art, society and psychology?
My main fear is that we become entirely reliant on technology as a species – in all aspects of life. An example being, if someone is asked a question in 2016 that they do not know the answer too, they can merely look it up on their smart phone. I believe this is phasing out immensely important brain functions including memory, the ability to absorb and retain information, and the significance of information in general. What is information worth if it is constantly at our fingertips and we take it for granted? Of course one can argue that more information for a larger demographic of people is constructive and, in some instances, of course I agree with this. But at the same time, are we as people more informed in 2016? Are people better off or smarter? Here in the States Trump is about to be our president, so probably not.
Talk to us about your concept of ‘dusty futurism’
Dusty futurism serves as a platform for musings on our ‘not so distant’ future. By creating an aesthetic that is both relatable to past and present my aim is to shed light on our current times and on occasion to predict times to come. I am a firm practitioner of studying our histories in order to inform our present and future decisions.
How does does your approach to making films and making paintings differ?
Painting is therapeutic for me. I can paint by myself and I don’t need anyone else’s input or help. Film and animation is entirely different because it’s collaborative by nature. I can’t make a film entirely on my own – I need a team. This can complicate things sometimes. Film and animation in particular is very time consuming. I could finish a painting in a day, but this is not true for moving image. There’s more to consider and plan for. Besides that, I try and approach my film work and animation exactly the same as any painting or body of work. My aim is always to create projects which entirely meld film/animation and painting all together into one cohesive artifact. I try and film like a painter and paint like a film maker. I let the two acts inform each other and vice versa.
We love your music videos. Tell us a little more about how you go about creating an aesthetic around sound.
Thank you – glad you enjoy them! Thus far I pick a song that resonates with me and listen too it enough to feel and understand it in its entirety. Then I create a loose proposal for what I would like to make. I am very, very particular as to what projects I work on. If I don’t feel the song or the artist I can’t make something that will resonate and that’s not worth my time. Every video I do, I try to approach entirely differently from anything I’ve done before, in order to not be pigeon holed and to challenge myself. Out of the handful of offers and opportunities for music videos I get every year I turn down 95%. I haven’t actually made a new music video since 2014. I am in the middle of one now actually, though it’s been on hold for a while. It’s for a group effort from my friends Lionel Elsound and Lonely Band. I’ve done a decent amount of work with Lionel before – he wrote and composed ‘Quest’ my first music video featuring Salomon Faye – and it’s my first time working with Marty (Lonely Band). Beyond being very talented musicians, they’re both from Paris and I love working with international artists. So I’m pretty stoked on that.
Which artists, dead or living, do you look up to and how do they influence your art?
Too many to name. The most difficult and most important aspect of being inspired by any other artist is learning to step back and stop looking at their work. This is the only way to create your own voice. Learn and respect the influence. Then throw it away and kill those artists (metaphorically).
What inspires you from outside the world of visual art?
To me the world is inherently visual art. My information is absorbed visually. I am more inspired by daily observations from my life or others more than what I see in a gallery.
So do you take inspiration from film and music too? What are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to the new Radiohead album and the new James Blake most recently. And yes I am very much influenced by cinema.
What projects are you currently working on right now? Any upcoming shows soon?