Leonie Ryan

Leonie Ryan

Leonie Ryan is an emerging Australian contemporary artist, from Nilma Victoria. Her studio practice works is Sensorial Installation Art. Leonie has been making art for over 16 years and more details can be found on her website.

Leonie, do you have an Artist’s statement?
Considerations for my projects evolve during regular daily walks. My bush treks offer a time when I can mediate between my own body and the natural environment. Simply by walking, the physical encounter transports me into an experience which links me directly with my surrounding environment. Since I predominantly select my materials from natural environments these walks are central to my process and practice.

My overarching objective for my projects has been to open the door to the idea of using installation art as a critical sensory practice. As an aid in breaking our dependence on ocular dominance and to investigate a range of other means to draw meaning from art. This activation of our perception critiques the passivity of mass-media consumption and offers a means to bring about a critical vigilance towards the environments in which we find ourselves.

2. 'Site, Substance and Sensation' Master Exhibition Switchback Gallery ...

Interests you have other than art you feel are important to mention?

I am interested in going on adventures and exploring.

How do you describe your work?
I investigate how we find meaning in contemporary art by other senses than visual. Through such deliberations I analyse how this might manifest through art in ways that are not yet immediately apparent between visible and invisible, conscious and unconscious.

What are you currently working on?

At this point my initiative is to work through a series of investigations that will enrich and strengthen my practice in the field of sensorial installation art. For example, Inside Out is a project I am currently working on and will be tested in the Project Space at Seventh Gallery, Fitzroy, Victoria. Inspiration was drawn from the natural history of site, a time when eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus globulus) grew plentifully, long before Fitzroy was a bustling suburb. Eucalyptus trees are endemic throughout Victoria and its scent is quite distinct, a sensorial reference can be noted on arrival outside the Melbourne airport. Inside Out functions behind the gallery wall and at regular intervals visitors can experience billowing cool air with the scent of eucalyptus from a vent. Other initiatives will develop through experimental approaches and investigations of specifically selected ruins located in my local region and beyond. Each ruin will be explored through my response to site and its history.

What fascinates you?
What intrigues me is the stimuli of our everyday physical world, complex processes of phenomenology that engage between our body and perception, where associations and memories are triggered, brought into consciousness through a heightened sensory awareness which leads to meaning.

Why are you an artist?3. 'Site, Substance and Sensation' Master's Exhibition, Sensory Project Si...
We are all artists; it’s just that some of us choose not to practice.

How important is art for you?
Art is an essential part of my life, it gives me an opportunity to question and explore the world around me.

Your art education was…?
Diploma in Visual Arts and Media.

Bachelor of Visual Arts.

Master of Visual Arts and Design.

Master of Arts, by research.


What did you do before or during becoming an artist?

As a child and in my teen years I always played around with art, ceramics, drawing and sculpture. In my twenties I owned and managed a café, got married and was blessed with three lovely sons. During most of my thirties I studied and practised theatre performance and studied photography. My formal studies of Visual Art commenced in 2000.

What is your earliest memory of art?
My very first day at kindergarten; I arrived kicking and screaming as I really didn’t want to be there. The kindergarten teacher presented me with an easel and paper and a pot of red paint, she suggested I give it a try. I settled down and enjoyed the tactile experience of painting with my fingers directly onto the butchers paper. From this initial experience, I developed a liking for kindergarten, especially art.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family? Definitely, my mother is an artist. During my childhood I have fond memories of my mother painting with a pallet knife and the sound the knife made as it scrapped and daubed across the canvas as well as the pleasant scent of oil paint and linseed oil tingling my nostrils. I believe environments do influence peoples development.


5. 'Site, Substance and Sensation' Master Exhibition, Sensory Project Si...

What or who inspires your art?
Artists who inspire me are Ann Hamilton, Anya Gallaccio, Ernesto Neto, Wolfgang Laib, James Turrell, there are many more, so I won’t go on. New and original works of art that involve you as the participant inspires me.

What caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?
An ongoing evolution continually propels me to explore mediums suitable to whatever project I’m working on. Currently my practice has steered away from my learned and habitual artistic processes, which involved concepts of symbolic representations produced through sculptural form. My objective now is to investigate how raw and natural materials translate into meaning in contemporary art, through phenomenology and the embodied experience.

4. 'Site, Substance and Sensation' Master Exhibition Sensory Project Sit...

You know you are successful in Visual Arts when…
Success could be defined as setting personal or collaborative goals and working towards achieving them. Reflection is a primary tool to gauge success and failure, particularly when working through experimental approaches, without failure there is little success to gauge.   

Creative streaks do they come in waves for you?
Sometimes.

Do you get to other artist’s exhibitions, openings etc?
Yes, regularly.

What can you tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?
My studio practice responds to current trends of an ever increasing engagement between the dominant ocular- centric order and multi-media computer technologies. I direct my projects as slow art, in real time, which integrates the embedded Self and being in the world. Studio methodologies continually develop through reflection, refinement and considerations for successes and failures from previous projects. A degree of discipline is essential during the decision process regarding material approaches, specifically to ensure visual cues are not predominant aspects.

All artists seem to have struggles, tell us about any you have had.
For me, sometimes I struggle to keep my mind in a peaceful state which for me is an empowered state. When I am in the right head space, I feel a gentle flow of energy, harmony and tranquillity within myself.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?         

Yes, my visual journal is a resource for reference. I enjoy revisiting old concepts and reflect on my development.

Any musical influences?
I enjoy listening to a vast array of music. I own a small cheap record player and enjoy vinyls. Some of my vinyl collection includes, harp music, Sonny & Cher etc.…, classical music, jazz, (Ella Fitzgerald), sounds from space, whale songs, Brian Ferry etc.…, I usually You tube Thievery Corporation, Buddha Ba and Tibetan gong sounds.

What sort of depth or meaning is there behind the work you do?
My projects are a practical exploration and analysis of the constitution of the human experience with place, revealing ways in which we find meaning through perception and experience from the world we live in.

How important is it to you that your work communicates something to the viewer?
I use the term ‘visitor’ in my work instead of viewer because my work is not predominantly visual. The visitors is integrated in my projects as part of the process, the authority is reversed back to the visitor to complete the work. I have no expectations for what meaning someone finds in my work, it’s purely whatever merges from their reservoir of memories, associations or imaginations, which will also continue to change over time.  

Art is about entertainment, experiment, inventiveness or shock for you?
Experimental approaches, sensory experiences and site responsive.

You have been working as an artist for a while, how do you feel about earlier works that are in people’s collections / ownership?
Earlier works are a representation of the past. I like to think my knowledge, concepts skills and techniques are continually developing as I progress over time. The past cannot be denied, it’s what assists with development therefore, earlier works are fundamental. It’s a matter of appreciating the past work for what it represented at that particular time.

Do the seasons affect your work or work habits?
Yes, for me, site responsive is often in the natural environment therefore, seasons, weather, temperature are all important aspects that affect and influence my work.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I appreciate most art forms that are skilful, technical or creative.

What is more important to you in your work, content or technique, concept or product?
I think all of these foundations are very important.

How important is society, culture and or history to your work?
Very important. The empirical notion that reality can be experienced firsthand has been mostly abandoned in favour of the view that reality is constructed through language and culture. Indeed, most views of the world carry a bias, whether conscious or unconscious, which affects all that is encountered. It is not possible to separate the observable world from the person observing it nor to report on the world without already having a position on how it functions. As such ‘meaning’, in my projects, is found in the awareness that the past informs and shapes the experience of the present moment.

How do you think art can change people or their perceptions?
I believe there is responsibility for the viewer/visitor and art to achieve alternative perceptions. The crucial process artistic expression alters people’s perception is through people’s ability to be open minded or unafraid of alternative perspectives.

When you create your work is it somehow an emotional relief as you do it or at the end?
The emotional connection is ongoing from previous projects to the next.

What is your working routine? Do you listen to music while you work, or stay up late for instance?
My work pattern is daily with a combination of reading, writing and studio practice. I achieve far more when I have a schedule or list to follow. I prefer working in the early morning into the late afternoon, sunrise to sunset. Sometimes I play music, particularly to enhance my energy and fire up happy endorphins.

What do you think sets you apart from other artists in your approach to work etc…,

I find it difficult to pin point exactly what makes my approach different, particularly since all artists appropriate from past influences. I employ influences from various artistic practices and through my own methods and experimental processes create my own unique formula.   

One word or statement to describe your current works?
Sensorial Art Installations.

What can you say about your work that might not be evident to the viewer?
To find meaning from my projects, sensory experience’s such as, sound, touch, smell and temperature, require contemplation; through heighten sensory awareness meaning can be located from memories, associations or imaginations.

The business or marketing side of Art can be a challenge to some, what are your thoughts?
Currently I have released the commercial side of art from my practice. Instead my focus is significantly on developing my practice and testing my projects at various sites.