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In Hong Kong this month, Paul Kasmin gallery is presenting three projects by artist Mark Ryden. Whipped Cream, Ryden’s collaboration with the American Ballet Theatre premiers at Hong Kong Cultural Centre during the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Coinciding with the ballet is his public sculpture Quintessence 132- Mezzo Dodecahedron, which will be on display at the Cultural Centre and at PMQ during Art Basel Hong Kong. And at the fair, Paul Kasmin is showing 16 of Ryden’s works in the Kabinett section.
Ryden spoke with Whitewall in advance of his Hong Kong happenings.
WHITEWALL: Your collaboration with the American Ballet Theatre will be performed over the final week of Hong Kong Arts Festival. Can you tell us more about the process of bringing the ballet’s characters to life?
MARK RYDEN: Everything began as any of my other art projects might, with sketches, drawings, and color studies. But then things took a very different path from my usual process. I worked with many great collaborators on the ballet, including an experienced costume designer, Holly Hynes, and set designer, Camellia Koo. I had never done sets and costumes before so I was very dependent on their expertise. The process of translating my art into functional three dimensional sets and costumes was involved and complicated, and included months of visits to costume shops and set production facilities. Dozens of artists and craftsmen were involved with the fabrication of everything. This was a very different process for me. With my art, I am used to doing everything myself. Conducting the work of others is a different skill set. Fortunately, it all went really well. It was thrilling to see everything come together at the end.
WW: Alongside Whipped Cream your sculpture Quintessence 132 – Mezzo Dodecahedron carries over the “all seeing eye,” a recurring motif in your work. What does this symbol represent to you and your work?
MR: It is through the eyes that we take in the sublime beauty of the physical world which connects directly to our hearts where that beauty ignites a conciseness of divinity.
WW: How important is it to you that the audience can interact and experience a taste of the fairy-tale-like world you create?
MR: I don’t feel that I create a world, instead I respond to the world I see. The world is a magical and enchanted place. My work combines pieces of the world that I observe and take interest in.
WW: You offer a unique perspective on the beauty of childhood innocence. How have you developed this perspective through your singular style of “pop-surrealism”?
MR: “Develop” suggests a conscious effort to take my work down a certain path, but my process is not so literal and analytical as that. My perspective is not something I develop, but something I simply have. A cerebral dissection of that perspective only serves to diminish the creative connection to something of a much higher consciousness.