the great "lost" artist, ryan larkin.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ryan Larkin (b. July 31, 1943, Montreal, Quebec - d. February 14, 2007, Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec) was a Canadian animator who rose to fame with the psychedelic 1969 Oscar-nominated short Walking and the acclaimed Street Musique (1972) who was the subject of the Oscar-winning film Ryan.
At the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Ryan learned animation techniques from the ground-breaking and award-winning animator, Norman McLaren. He made two acclaimed short animated films, Cityscape and Syrinx, before going on to create Walking and Street Musique.
He also contributed art work and animation effects to NFB films including the 1974 feature Running Time, directed by Mort Ransen, in which Ryan also played three bit parts.
Ryan left the NFB in the late 1970s.
Ryan Larkin's father was an airline mechanic. Ryan Larkin had attended the Art School of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts where he studied under Arthur Lismer (a member of the Group of Seven) before working at the National Film Board of Canada from the early 1960s until 1978.
In recent years Ryan was plagued by a downward spiral of drug abuse, alcoholism and homelessness, but recently found himself back in the limelight when a 14-minute computer-animated documentary on his life, Ryan by fellow Canadian animator Chris Landreth, won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film and screened to acclaim at film festivals around the world. Alter Egos (2004), directed by Laurence Green, is a documentary about the making of Ryan that includes interviews with both Larkin and Chris Landreth as well as with various people who knew Ryan at the peak of his own success.
Starting in 2003, Larkin had been working with composer Laurie Gordon of the band Chiwawa on a new animated film entitled Spare Change (his first in decades). Together they formed Spare Change Productions and were seeking funding for the film through Gordon's production company MusiVision. They received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec but were still short of financing. MusiVision and the National Film Board are working in co-production and will finish the animation in the summer of 2008. Spare Change will feature at least one Chiwawa tune for which Larkin created storyboards and animation, including Do It For Me from the 2005 release Bright. MusiVision is also producing a documentary about Ryan's final years. Larkin, who had panhandled outside Montreal Schwartz's deli, also appeared in a documentary on the famous restaurant, Chez Schwartz, directed by Garry Beitel
In December 2006, Larkin created three five-second bumpers for MTV in Canada, a preview to Spare Change. Larkin said that he had given up some bad habits, including drinking, in order to better focus on his animating career.
Ryan Larkin died in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec on February 14, 2007 from lung cancer which had spread to his brain.
"In relation to the remarkable breath and depth of of his art it is fascinating to find he never left his homeland; indeed he probably passed his entire life within a radius of only a few miles. All his voyaging was done on the inward sea of his own spirit..."
-Robert Wallace - The World of Rembrandt
Even when I was a kid I knew how to solve the problem:
whatever you choose to do, do with with a blind, stupid, drunken confidence no matter how little you actually know. This is called being an American.
I'd seen many others pull off this trick, some were doing it for the experience (which I applaud,) while others did it to jerk off their ego (which I also applaud as long as I don't have to clean up the mess afterwards, because nothing's more entertaining than seeing an ego come apart under the pressure of the world crashing down on them, in some sadistic way, especially when that ego has ran you around and back and forth and over and under - then it's really, really, really entertaining!)
Perhaps I had even pulled this trick of "pretending to know" off a couple times too, and for a while it seemed to work; pretending to know, pretending I was this great...if I had to put a percentage on my success rate I'd say, I don't know, 50 percent of the time?
But then it slowly dawned on me that the unsolved problem, the unfinished task, the disaster I knew I could fix and, more importantly how to fix, but did not fix, this was much more true to me than all the confident Robert Redford moves I could make to just get the job done. I knew very, very young that I was never going to be that guy, the quarterback who was going to lead the charge down the field; that if I had a strength, and I was going to do anything with my existence, that it was because I was good at courting chaos, controversy, anarchy and accidents, at inviting good luck and bad into the fray of my life, not instituting my will over these things and bringing some ready-made, autographed order to the scene.
I was good at entering into chaos, shining a little light, finding my way through, and, if I was lucky enough to survive, reporting back on my findings with either words, images or some kind of combination of both; my life is kind of like being a journalist, only I'm writing my by-line in some ancient tongue I'm making up on the spot.
Anyway, for some weird reason I could not and still cannot explain, perhaps I am even at my best in the middle of the accident, the plane crash, in the fucked up, bizarro, tripped out, and surreal. Survival instincts, when they kick in, are the most powerful endorphins we have, and the most natural and intense of all highs.
You see every single time I've played it safe, bang, I'm dead. But let me fly by the seat of my pants right into those trees on the horizon, and if I get out of this alive then, fuck, there's going to be something to be made out of this, perhaps even money.
So slowly, but finally once and for all, I have enough experience to finally say that the finished, the polished, the buffed up and presented for sale on the showroom floor is boring and dead to me. I'm not interested. I'm not entertained. I'm not impressed.
Ah, but the confused!
The stumbling, fumbling fool dropped down in the middle of the jungle with no idea which way to go; now that is life, that image is the essence...Not only does the fool not know how to get out of the jungle...Well, he doesn't know how to get out of the jungle and, besides worrying about being eaten by tigers, finding a way out is about all he can handle...And this state, for the most part, is life, yours and mine, and it is what I am interested in no matter what form it takes...
Because - and this really isn't said enough in the world we now live in where everyone is watching everyone else - life, even at its most mundane and localized, is exciting and interesting!
Sometimes boring, yes, sometimes depressing, sometimes lonely and disappointing, but constantly moving, changing and enlivening us whether we want it to or not, whether we avoid it by systematizing ourselves to death or not, whether we label everything, think we've seen it all, lived it all, all of it so boring, or not. All you have to do is engage with, at the very minimum, the most basic of living skills, (and believe me, at times this is about all I can do,) and you are certain to have some experience every day that changes you, sends you into a new direction with new ideas, new synapses firing, new - new - new...
And if you are in tune with this idea and open to it, it seems to be some sort of natural compensation for our inability to stop getting old - old - old. Don't get me wrong, most people, they take their experiences and basically use them to reiterate to themselves who they are, where they come from, and why they are right about everything and always have been, rather than just being open to the experience and letting it send them where they need to go. I can't speak for those people...I only know it's a diseased mind-set because I've certainly been one of them at times, and will be one again, but that is why this is a lesson I have to constantly keep re-learning, and why I'm writing this diatribe down right now, I suppose.
See I was working on this painting, and paintings are so brash, so indulgent, so useless and meaningless and unneeded by a world that just plows along and over everything. But a painting, a drawing, in its uselessness, its messiness, its absurdity at even being attempted to be created is so defiant and rebellious, the way a poem is, but on such a grander physical scale, and that's one of the reason I love it; the bad kids, no, the worst kids, the ones you can't tell nothing to, they're the ones that paint.
Julian Schnabel said something like, "painting is an act of peace," but I don't think so, I think painting is an act of rebellion, not only against the normal goings on of the world, but against rational time itself. I think Giacometti had it better when he said that painting and drawing were "absurd acts in and of themselves." When as a conscious adult you pick up a brush or a pencil to paint or draw, you're willfully stopping time, saying fuck you to it whether you're conscious of this or not, simply because the act of expressing yourself, in the society we live in, by utilitarian standards, is utterly absurd and only becoming more so. This idea of what "matters," well out here on the frontier, I can tell you that the only thing that "matters," is buying and selling. But the wonderful thing about this is that as society clamps down on us more and more, treats us more and more like these products, our art, our expression, it becomes more important, more visceral, more physical, more sculpted, more pointed, more treasured and cherished as being the last playground and pavilion of our need to be human no matter how ugly, messy or beautiful that is.
Painting and drawing to me are elemental, something we've needed to do since we were living in caves, to physically transcribe our experiences, imaginings, fears, desires...To step outside of time and find our own language with which to do it. Finding a language, that is the very definition of style; but the ones who have it are those same stubborn kids you can't tell nothing to, the ones who won't let that unique, human thing inside of them be beaten or bored to death out of them...
So i was looking at this painting I'm doing, this so simple, so complex, so incomplete metaphor for my life right now, and it's distilled, slashed, burned, covered up and reduced down to five fading flower-like figures on a plywood board that I found in an alley that looks like it's been riddled by AK-47 bullets. I was staring at the painting which is painted with anything from oil, acrylic, blood (my own,) and wax, at this one section, and I said aloud, "I should paint that light blue. That will finish the painting. That will make it beautiful."
So I mixed up the blue with the white, and I picked up my favorite sable brush, and I was about to start painting when the words came to me, "Even when I was a kid, I knew how to solve the problem..." I saw them splayed and dripping across the painting.
And, without another thought I dropped the brush, jumped over the dog fence that keeps Geryon (the Italian Greyhound who I refer to as either "Houndy" or, alternatively, "The Gimp" because of his broken leg,) out of my studio/kitchen, sat down at this computer still hung over, and started typing out
words for the painting
just to see where I would go.
I'm not going to paint that section blue. I'm leaving it as it is.
The Painting above is by Robert Rauschenberg, an artist I never really thought about until five minutes ago, now I have to look at everything he's ever done. This is how it goes, one things leads to another, my curiousity bumps into everything, and then the day is done without me knowing what happened.