Chosen as a British Jubilee Artist alongside Peter Blake, Ryan studied 3D Design and Modelmaking at Barking College, in Dagenham, London. In the early days, the artist started to experiment with street art and, soon after, he produced his first screenprint which sold out within weeks. He then became known as RYCA.
With a background in printing and pub sign-making, Ryan’s artworks employ a quirky and clever use of imagery drawn from popular culture. ‘It is important to me that my work is recognisable and accessible, that is why I like to experiment with symbols that I grew up with by appropriating them and giving them a humorous twist’, Ryan explains.
Callanan's emblematic series of three-dimensional smiley faces, synonymous with the Acid House rave culture of the 1980s, quickly made him a name amongst collectors, who appreciated the artist’s original take on the famous symbol by using a new mix of gold-inlay and black-painted glass techniques and preserving an artisan approach to producing work.
Ryan employs his craftsmanship as a three-dimensional sign writer and model maker in order to create awe-inspiring limited-edition typography and sculptures. Many of his signs, made with glass, resin, gold and paint, explore the use of colloquial words, song lyrics and popular quotes. His collection of expletive-insertions, in which an expletive is inserted into a word, has become a symbol of Ryan’s playful diving into British popular culture; his experimentation with lyrics have resulted in highly collectable editions amongst musicians, music producers and writers.
Ryan's interest in working with different materials and methods keep his work fresh and in a constant state of change. ‘I’m interested in studying, discovering and experimenting with various processes and technological advances’, Ryan explains. Fellow artist Ben Eine has recently called Ryan a ‘chemist-like artist’.
Ryan would like to 'really establish the aesthetic of old fashion signage as an art form’.
Ryan Callanan has collaborated with acclaimed artists such as DJ Fatboy Slim, Sick Boy, Ben Eine, David Walker and Stik, amongst others.
'It was a natural process: I took something from the pop culture and reinterpreted it in a different way.'