INJECTING PERSONAL VISION INTO TRADITION
At first glance, Ryan Gagné‘s portfolio is everything you’d associate with classic tattoo art- Sailor Jerry‘s legacy carried on into our digital world. That, of course, is a hook in itself, but if you spend some time with each piece, it becomes evident that Ryan’s not only honoring generations of tattooing- he’s honing his personal vision of it as well. It’s imagery that you’ll recognize, but it’s the edge he gives it that really makes the whole venture worth it- the approach is fearless but calculated and the result is timeless; permanent in a whole new sense.
Speaking as a visual artist who has experienced the fear of space when faced with an empty surface, the first thing that stood out to me among Ryan’s work was the way he allows his imagery to spread out and get comfortable. In each piece, he seems to reach slightly beyond its limits, slightly beyond its frame in a way that takes command over the body it adorns. Every element of the tattoo is obviously meticulously placed, but I can’t escape the feeling of impulse that comes with it- as if certain parts simply happened, naturally and unapologetically. I think this tidbit speaks to Ryan’s identity as an artist working with very specific subject matter that has found a way to inject himself into what he pictures without compromising the integrity of the piece or, for that matter, his personal vision. It’s a win-win situation that works out well for whomever takes a seat in his chair as well.
Quintessentially classic American, Ryan’s designs are immediate- the romance, the bold line work, and classic imagery is undeniable. There’s one piece in his portfolio that stood out to me in particular as a solid example of his stylistic handiwork- a rose morphing into a tarantula, originating at the knee and slowly making its way downwards. Like much of his work, it’s lit from underneath with a slight blue shadow, completed by layers of color stacked like the petals themselves. The light he creates is always weighed down by the sheer weight of the tattoo, creating a dichotomy between permanence and fleeting presence. I’d definitely recommend Ryan’s work to anyone who’s looking for something classic that is not limited by its history- an experiment that somehow always remains familiar. Ryan works out of Government St. Tattoo in British Columbia.