Castlefield Gallery Associates Spotlight: Ryan French

Posted on 13 June 2023

This month we have asked Ryan French to contribute to our Castlefield Gallery Associates Spotlight series, in which current Castlefield Gallery Associates share their thoughts on what the programme offers and how it has been useful for them.

To see Ryan’s new body of work, you can attend his upcoming solo exhibition, ‘A Material Entity Bound in Space and Destined to Oblivion’ at Saan1 in Manchester, from 14th – 19th June (Preview: 14th June, 6pm).

Can you tell us a little bit about your practice?

I’m a multidisciplinary artist developing my creative practice across various media, from oil painting to digital collage and AI. I create compositions that explore social paradigms, idealism, my own identity as a queer person, and living in an age of hyperreality.

My creative process always begins from a moment captured in life, either from a photograph or memory. I like to collage or paint these scenes, allowing them to feed and change one another, morphing between representation and abstraction like a pendulum swinging back and forth, until the evolution becomes a new piece entirely different to the original. 

Recently, I have incorporated more automatism into my process by combining my work with AI image generators. I see this as a contemporary take on the Surrealist technique of automatism, in which they attempted to let the subconscious mind lead them without conscious agency. By outsourcing this to AI, it produces an element of chance and expression that would be arguably impossible via the human hand. AI is not the end result, but rather another facet of the creative process, another reproduction of the memory, and the interpretations the viewer makes from the results are what give the artwork meaning.

How did you hear about Castlefield Gallery Associates and why did you want to join?

I first heard about Castlefield Gallery Associates through being a volunteer at the gallery. It was something I was always interested in being a part of. Castlefield Gallery helps artists, especially those who are less established, in their professional development and I have definitely  experienced this happening simply from being around the vicinity. I’ve indirectly learnt a lot about the art world through being a volunteer at the gallery (leading to me becoming the volunteer coordinator) and an Associate. It is great to meet other artists and experience their work. As an artist, I have a deep and unshakable feeling of being an outsider around institutions and more mainstream establishments, so being here has dispelled some of my aversion to such spaces. It’s a nice place to be.  

What are you looking forward to most about your coming years membership? 

My first ever solo exhibition will be on Wednesday the 14th of June, so if you’re reading this, come and check it out. I’m excited to continue to develop my practice and have even more ambitious exhibitions, expanding on how my work is presented, interacted with and made more accessible. An artist has to have many strings to their bow; being an Associate, and utilising the benefits that are on offer, is one. I’m grateful to have this opportunity and whatever else may come my way. 

Find out more about Castlefield Gallery Associates here