“When is one banana a banana too many?”
For the figurative/narrative British painter Ryan Mosley this rhetorical question underpins his imaginary paintings with their Commedia dell'arte referencing.
Whilst this particular herb features in Mosley’s 2014 painting
Studio International’s Harriet Thorpe “Initially, this evolved from that simplified cactus motif, that evolution from the figure becoming the cactus in previous paintings. From that, it evolved into this botanical shape, a fruit, a banana, whatever it may be. It was an attempt to present the figure, which had gone full circle; a figure to a cactus to this evolutionary motif, and back to a figure again. And again, how much descriptive painting do you need for it to be seen as a figure?”
And then there is the theatrical environment for this tutor, mentor, teacher, performer. “I always felt it could be a re-enactment of Shakespeare, going back to that provincial stage, he wasn’t on Broadway, it certainly wasn’t the West End, this was something much more low fi.”
Mosley decided to become an artist when he was a teenager watching his engineer father redesign LP record covers on the weekend. After graduating with his Master of Fine Arts from London’s Royal College of Art, Mosley worked as a room warden at the National Gallery.
About which he told Frieze Magazine’s Jennifer HIggie “[it was] easy to spend a whole afternoon there, to return month after month and obsessively look at the collections, especially ones that explore fables and folklore.”
As a result, Mosley became enthralled with making works that “can embody their own contradictions and do something very interesting with both fact and imagination… This is going to seem to make me lazy, but if you go and paint first hand, would it then just be a souvenir? In painting something you’ve never experienced, there’s something fantastical about it.”
About which he has elaborated saying “There’s this theatrical performative element, like the spaghetti westerns. Growing up watching these films about cowboys and Indians, they were never really filmed in the west. I guess it’s this Hollywood effect. They are these provincial actors playing the part of the harlequin or the miner – or someone playing the ukulele in his lunch hour. If I sat down and wrote a narrative about who these people were, would it become too limited? At the moment there’s this feeling that you’re not sure.”
Mosley’s current exhibition Anatomy and the Wall is on show at London’s Alison Jacques Gallery until the 3rd of March.