In Conversation: Ryan Quast
In ‘Eleven Minutes Late’, Ryan Quast creates a paradox, producing replicas of consumer goods through painstaking hand labour. The show is a departure from his previous works in that this time he shows objects that are useless rather functional, although they’re still as mundane as ever. In this interview, we talk to Quast about British TV, his unique paint-sculpting process, and how he stays motivated when his pieces take years to complete.
How did you come up with the technique of paint sculpting?RQ
That’s a good question. That’s going back pretty far. When I came up with the idea, I guess there were two things going on for me. One was that I was making sculptures of nails, and tennis balls – funny objects, if you know what I mean. I was making those and regularly casting them. And then at the same time, I was working a lot in enamel paintings and I was friends with Wil Murray, a painter who was also working in enamel and we were just pushing paint. I was getting to the point where I was making almost reliefs, doing many many layers on a panel, then peeling some off and getting a relief. Then I thought, I should try to build up regular layers of paint, not supported. I started making lego blocks, and nails out of paint. That’s kind of how that started.
In the past, you’ve produced sheets of lined paper out of porcelain. Are there any other materials you’ve worked with in the past, or that you’d like to work with more in the future?RQ
Well, the lined paper was made from bone china, not porcelain; there’s a huge difference. I was at Chelsea [Chelsea College of Art in London] when I made those, and they didn’t have a sculpture department really, they didn’t have a ceramics department. So I went to Hammersmith, because you could use their facilities and they had a really good pottery studio. I told the guy that was teaching there what I wanted to do and he was like oh, you should just make it out of bone china because it’s translucent. I ended up spending a whole semester there, churning out these sheets of paper. I think it may have been a hundred sheets, and of those, I think twenty made it through the firing process, and then five made it back to Canada. There was a monster amount of breakage.
In terms of other materials I’ve worked in, I made a marble eraser, I made a concrete tennis ball. Just poured concrete and then rubbered it. At some point, I’m gonna start getting into some other materials, outside of paint. But I don’t know when that’s gonna be. I kind of just like making the paint sculptures.
Some of your pieces take years to finish. What helps you stay motivated to complete them?RQ
I guess the short answer would be that I don’t have anything else going on, so it’s pretty easy to just keep making these sculptures one little stroke at a time. I do drawings on the side, too – I feel like I have a large enough mix in my general practice that it makes the lull time on the sculptures okay. There was a period of time when I was just focusing on those sculptures and… it wasn’t really the best. It’s definitely one of those practices where you need to have a few different things going on.
Most of the subjects of your sculptures are mass-produced at an extremely high rate of speed and efficiency. Yet your own process when depicting these objects is slow and laborious. Does that irony mean anything to you, or do you just see it as incidental?RQ
The more mass produced, the more common an object is, the more important it is to me to make a copy of that object in the slowest possible way. We’re so familiar with those objects that it takes a long time to make a convincing enough replica. I also think that even though the original objects seem to be made quite easily, there’s actually such a long process that happens to get them existence. Mining materials in this country, bringing them over to that country, an assembly line of people putting these things together. An object can be really common, but there’s so much labour and energy that goes into making every tiny thing. I always wonder, even if I’m doing brushstrokes for like a year to make a sculpture, if that’s even close to the equivalent of the labour that it took to actually bring one of those things into existence.
How did you come across The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin and decide to reference it in this show? What can you tell us about the title Eleven Minutes Late?RQ
I was introduced to the show when I was bartending years ago, by a coworker who was really into British TV. He, my brother, and I would always have conversations about shows we’d seen. He was older than us, like ten years or so, and he had mentioned this show that we’d never heard of. We all started watching it and talking about it and it became a show that I’ve ended up revisiting once in a while.
The title, Eleven Minutes Late, is a thing the main character always says when he’s on the train on his way to work. For the first couple of episodes, he mentions that he’s eleven minutes late, then he’s twelve minutes late, then he’s fourteen minutes late, and it goes on and on until he stops going to work altogether. I liked that idea of somebody dropping out of their day job to start slowly moving into this fantasy land, where they’re gonna open up this Grot Shop and escape the trappings of their mundane life. And building a new mundane life, at the same time.
Ryan Quast’s exhibition, Eleven Minutes Late, will be exhibited at BAF Gallery until Saturday, December 14, 2019. Come see it in person at BAF Gallery, 258 East 1st Avenue.