February 15th – March 28th, 2024
Opening: Thursday, February 15th from 6 p.m.
Ryan Heshka – Springs to Come
curated by Ivan Quaroni
Five years after his last show here, Ryan Heshka, the Canadian artist who has invented a imaginative universe inhabited by masked pin-ups and daunting femmes fatales, bizarre chimeras and space monsters, superheroes and sub-humans that seem derived from science fiction comics of the 1950s or frames from an old horror flick by RKO Pictures, is back in Milan.
What takes form in Heshka’s painting, in fact, is a wild, savage world in which genetic variations of all kinds abound, hybrids, grafts, mixtures of mutant humanity – surviving perhaps after the catastrophe caused by some technological mishap – but also flora and fauna that have adapted to new conditions of life. Conditions that generate a colorful myriad of organic forms, a panoply of promiscuous and spurious species that embody the Darwinian dream of an unstoppable evolution. To use Ryan Heshka’s own words, “the first generation of new life forms after the end of the world.”
In this solo exhibition, tellingly titled Springs to Come – the artist’s fifth in the spaces of Galleria Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea – we see about 30 works, including oils on canvas and panel, mixed media, gouache and pencil drawings on paper, in an overview of the Canadian artist’s recent output.
Having put aside the dark tones of Midnight Movie, the previous show in 2018, Heshka lets himself be guided this time by the idea of rebirth, formal and creative, that centers on the concepts of germination, blossoming and proliferation, conveyed not only in the invention of new characters, but also in the development of new ideas. The springtime referenced in the title is visible above all in the extraordinarily lively and luminous palette of colors of the paintings, and in the choice of setting his stories in a natural landscape, halfway between a post-apocalyptic Eden and an alien Garden of Earthly Delights.
The exhibition also features a series of sketches, studies and projects on paper that illustrate the artist’s creative process, defined as “an organic method based on rigorous planning,” and at the same time as “something like planting many seeds, hoping that each of them will put down roots.” In short, a sprouting harvest of images, like an announcement of the coming of spring after a long winter.
Ryan Heshka was born in Manitoba, Canada in 1970, and lives and works in Vancouver. He studied architecture and took a degree in interior design, a field in which he worked for many years, along with that of animation, before making art and illustration his main activities. His works are influenced by the Golden Age of comic books (favorite artists include Jack Kirby, Bill Everett and Basil Wolverton), pulp magazines (Frank R. Paul), children’s books (Dr. Seuss), monster movies and B-movies (such as those of Ray Harryhausen, or films about King Kong and Dracula), old advertisements and vintage posters, all ingredients that have shaped his original artistic style. Outside of pop culture, other influences include the natural world, industrial and architectural design, and fashion. During childhood, besides drawing, Heshka enjoyed making models of little cities, and he filmed them using the stop motion technique in Super 8 mm to create his own imaginary world. His works have been featured in the most important annuals on illustration, including American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, 3 x 3 and Applied Arts, and in Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Playboy, Esquire, Forbes, as well as by Topps and Dreamworks SKG. He has shown in galleries in North America and Europe, and his images have been published many times in the magazine BLAB! and in books on the Pop Surrealism movement, including The Upset: Young Contemporary Art by Robert Klanten and Beautiful Dreamers: Il nuovo sogno americano tra Lowbrow Art e Pop Surrealism by Ivan Quaroni. In 2017 the publisher Cernunnos released his first monograph, titled Fatales: The Art of Ryan Heshka. Heshka has also published the comic “Mean Girls Club” (2015), the graphic novel “Mean Girls Club: Pink Dawn” (2018), and the self-produced comics “Frog Wife” (2018) and “Pleasure Planet” (2021).