The Illustrious Worlds of Mark Ryden
The King of Pop Surrealism
Interview door Kamiel Proost
When I first saw Mark Ryden's paintings in Juxtapoz Magazine I knew that Modern Painting was saved. Intricate details, superb technique, humor and a strange darkness captured in oil paint. Jesus in a Rocket, a naked Snow White between dinosaurs, Abraham Lincoln juggling with grade A-beef. It was the beginning of Pop Surrealism, a new school in Art, long before predicted by the ‘savior’ of painting the great Salvador Dali. With only a few paintings a year dripping out of Mark Ryden's Californian studio he has conquered the world with his enigmatic vision. If you visit his website, markryden.com, please don’t be just amazed by his paintings, but also read the artist’s statements on Trees, Meat, Art and the Mystery of Life.
‘Many people think that childhood’s world of imagination is silly, unworthy of serious consideration, something to be outgrown. Modern thinking demands that an imaginative connection to nature needs to be overcome by “mature” ways of thinking about the world. Human beings used to connect to life through mystery and mythology. Now this kind of thinking is regarded as primitive or naive. Without it, we cut ourselves off from the life force, the world soul, and we are empty and starving.’ Mark Ryden.
Amsterdam Enjoy is thrilled to be able to ask the ‘King of Pop Surrealism’ some serious questions:
You once were a commercial painter and did Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’ cover. It is rumored that he visited your studio in the middle of the night so you could paint His Eyes from real Life. Did the ‘King of Pop’ and the ‘King of Pop Surrealism’ have a little dance together?
Unfortunately I cannot “officially” discuss the details, but I can tell you that I feel very fortunate to have met and worked with a person of such relevance in our time. We got along really well while working on the project. He was a very creative and amazing person.
Are you still emotionally attached to your paintings, and is it hard to sell some of your favourites?
I have never felt much attachment after finishing a painting. I like to see them go out into the world. My hope is that they end up in a place where they will be loved and appreciated, but I don’t have any desire to hang on to them. I like to move on to the next one!
You must have spent ages on The Creatrix, if people want to see it for real, where do they have to go?
A wonderful collector, Mark Parker, who lives in the Northwest, owns “The Creatrix”. He has a great collection of art as well as toys and other collectables. Fortunately he likes to loan out his paintings and share them with the world so “The Creatrix” is a painting that is more likely to get loaned out. The last exhibition it was part of was called “The Juxtapoz Factor” at the Laguna Art museum. Hopefully soon it will make an appearance somewhere.
Is God a Woman? And if so, how did she paint all of this? Or is the Universe maybe a Poem?
There are many gods. Some are feminine and some are masculine. Problems in perception arise when people personify the gods and think too literally about them. It is better to think of the gods as archetypes or energies, or even simply “qualities”. I think of the Universe as a dance of these gods.
Besides Dreaming of your own theme park, don’t you think the World needs a Mark Ryden Museum first?
I would love to develop a museum space. That would be marvelous.
What is or are your favorite saying(s) of the ‘King of Presidents’ Abraham Lincoln?
“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
I once asked an Italian painter: ‘Where can I still learn to paint like the Old Masters?’ He answered: ‘In Peking‘. Do you have any other suggestions?
There are not too many places around to learn the techniques of the old masters, but the museums are full of amazing examples! You can learn so much by simply spending time carefully studying and looking at the paintings themselves. It is one of my favourite things to do. What is magnificent about old master’s paintings has a lot less to do with secret techniques and a lot more to do with careful attention to the subtleties and beauty of the world around us.
Who or what are your new discoveries in art at the moment?
The music of Moondog, the paintings of Neo Rauch, the movies of Terrence Malick.
Our city is know for it’s liberal laws on drugs, did you ever try Magic Mushrooms, and what do you think of psychedelic substance?
I don’t do well with psychotropic substances. I think that in my regular daily life, my thoughts are already somewhat hallucinatory. Adding anything else, even marijuana, puts me too far out there.
America and the Western World are in a crises, financially and spiritually. What do you see for a future of the ‘Land of Freedom’?
It may take quite some time, but I see a future where people have let go of scientific reductionism vs. monotheistic spirituality. The world will be looked at with enchantment again. People will see spirituality in the natural world around them once again. We can do this without losing what we have gained in the modern era, that is an awareness of the importance of the individual self, and will have a better, more balanced relationship with the world...