Interview: Ryan Demaree
Updated: Dec 23, 2020
Ryan Demaree is a painter who lives in Toronto, Canada. He started painting in 2006. His style appears to be a modern take of surrealism mixed with pasty impasto and expressionist style.
1) What is your earliest memory of creating art? At what point did you decide to be an artist? Why did you make that decision?
I mean I did a lot of stuff growing up. I remember as a kid I used to draw monsters and dinosaurs a lot. I decided to take it seriously when I was about 18 years old (around 2009). I was really good at it and I figured it was enjoyable.
2) What is the main obsession that you have with creating? What is the essence that you are trying to depict or convey in your artwork? What is the meaning of your art?
I just really like creating things to be honest. I know I am good at it, and it is like a release. Usually the real personal imagery .... surreal personal imagery is the essence that I am trying to convey in my work. Usually I latch onto icons (like dinosaurs or asteroid or ape) and manipulate them in certain way to show an idea in my head. Whatever that is on the dinosaur's head, inside the nest, is the dinosaur's thoughts. The nest is like a brain, and whatever is the idea is in the nest coming out of it. I usually use dinosaurs a lot because they are gone and out of view, and they used to dominate the planet. It's like a mythical being that we knew were there, but we don't have a video record of them.
3) What do you admire about Salvador Dali? What did you learn from trying to reproduce his paintings?
He's definitely in my top three painters - Dali, van Gogh, and Jackson Pollock - for me. Dali was technically the most skilled painter ever, in my opinion. The way he manipulated the imagery and the icons was very fascinating because it's similar to the work that I do now. You can say the same thing about Rene Magritte.
I learned... just the discipline of the technical aspect painting... the discipline getting into the mindset of that painting. It's extremely technical and difficult. Also I learned to understand the history of painting. There's a lot that you learn from it. Also just getting into Dali's mind is like knowing one of best painters of our time... on technical and conceptual level as well.
4) Do you identify with the cavemen and dinosaurs in your paintings? If so why?
Yeah I would say so. I don't know. It's kind of like an outsider feel. The idea is to relate to Dali in a certain extent. I have learned a lot from it. A lot of stuff I worked with is very primitive and creature-like.
5) Tell us about your experiments and research with vintage paint and pigments. Has this knowledge and practice given you an edge as an artist? How?
I've researched medieval and renaissance paintings a lot. Recently I've had more experience studying 19th century art materials. For instance I own 4 tubes of genuine emerald green, and I have done tests on them - lightfastness, reactivity, transparency, and permanence. Same thing with mummy brown, except I had to recreate it basically using cow flesh and resin.
It just helps me understand the history of color and painting. With the paintings that I am trying to do now ... some of it makes a difference with the materials that I use. In some instance, knowing the materials can affect the outcome. These pigments, such emerald green, mummy brown, and Tyrian purple, can be very toxic and mostly are out of reach in current times.
6) What do you think about conceptual art? Has it benefited our modern society and culture, or made it digress in some ways?
I am not a fan of it overall... I think art after abstract expressionism in the 1950s has been degenerate and not contributing much. Most of it is very empty, stolen imagery... most of it is wishy washy nonsense. Most of it is very politically and socially active... a lot of it is not technically skilled and disciplined. It's too wishy washy. There is Yoko Onno having an exhibition where she is screaming into a microphone, or poop inside can, or Jeff Koon's balloons. It's all for shock and show. I say this as a painter. It doesn't work for me.
7) What are your hopes and aspirations? Where would you like to be in the next 20 years?
I just would like to make a decent living from what I do. And if I can gain any fame or notoriety from that, it would be great. But generally I would just like to do what I like and make a decent living from it.