For the past several years, Ryan Mathern has been concentrating on creating steel sculpture, adding virgin and reclaimed materials to a tubular steel substructure and steel rod framework. Utilizing indelible materials (including stainless steel, aluminum and chrome plate) alongside weather-able materials (mild steel, copper) allows for a great range of contrast and interplay of textures. Within these pieces, negative space is created by removing metal with a cutting torch; these are often lit from within by electrical light, ambient light or fire.
Often, Mathern’s work combines phrases in Tibetan script with subject matter such as mythical creatures and Asian devotional machines. The phrases may overtly state or quietly suggest the intentions of the creature, allowing the viewer to focus on the character of the piece and interact with it in various ways. A viewer may join their own intentions with those of the animal spirit within the work. For instance, a dragon praying for peace or compassion could serve as a vessel for the viewer’s own desire for peace and compassion.
All of Ryan’s large scale pieces so far have involved fire. Enclosures for wood fire, sculptural elements that are consumed by flames and pressurized propane flame effects are used to bring the sculptures to life, expose inner forms and messages and cast light and heat on the observer. Fire creates a performance aspect, ties the piece to external participants, ages and transforms a work and can serve as a climax, or the culmination of a work of art.