Ryan welcomes the group and begins the day by discussing his own practice and how he’s developed as an artist from being a student at Dwr Y Felin. He and Dafydd Williams, (a previous Ystalyfera student and Ryans technician for the day) demonstrate how students can follow a similar pathway. They both speak to the group about how commissions and teaching support their practice.
Ryan’s work focuses on making ‘gallerys’ and work that is unfixed or hasn’t been fully completed during the darkroom process. He uses his exhibition Divisible Remainder which was shown at Mission Gallery as an example.
The exhibition was shown under red light, because without this neutralizer under natural light the half developed images would be destroyed. Ryan is interested in the symbolism of decay and how this relates to the viewer. Lighting is also important to Dafydd’s work, but he focuses around the lighting of the subject matter and how this relates to art history (cite Michelangelo and Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro lighting technique). Dafydd’s work similarly looks at symbolism, but more so to highlight sociopolitical issues such as how society views homosexuality.
For the first task the students get into groups and make portraits of each other. They explore both Photography and the Fine Art studios. While working, they are asked to consider 3 things: How the audience reads you, how you want to be seen, and what you want to communicate. They are also asked to think about what a portrait is. Work by Francis Bacon is used as an example of an alternative view on portraiture.
Students then have to choose one image each from their collection. Ryan asks the them to invert the selected images and print them off. They then take these down to the darkroom to be processed.
Ryan talks them through the dark room equipment and process, and the importance of experimenting in order to get the right exposure. These portraits were then layered with different objects, and the students experimented with the effects of textures and varying exposures. Students also got a chance to develop the images in a chemical wash, resulting in some very dramatic and alternative portraits.