Ransome Stanley: Traversing Borders, Conflating Time and Space
Ransome Stanley employs collages in reflecting on colonial clichés of exoticism and images of Africa rooted in Western concepts of rusticness and innocence. He creates planar pictorial spaces whose stark narrative painting style he then disrupts by contrasting it with something two-dimensional. By adapting familiar motifs, derived from the canons of history, politics, ethnology, symbolism, and mythological teachings, Stanley forces his viewers to question cultural principles firmly rooted within the collective consciousness of humanity.
Why are the concepts of time and space, as well as a limited palette so central to your work?
In my paintings there is no reason to recount a linear plot, rather I utilise the design experience to create complex spaces. I move across the border between two worlds playing with different forms of conscious perception. I am concerned with the discontinuity of space and time. The concept of time is emphasised continually. I employ patina or rust to accentuate traces of the past. In almost all my works, you find the ephemeral aspect and the concept of time on the topic; the concept of time as a factor in human activity.
To convey a sense of time, patina and rust are incorporated into your process. Please give us an overview of your technique.
There is such a thing as the beauty of decay; a phenomenon that only enchants houses, humans and things through the damage of time. It is for this reason, that for a certain period, I preferred the intermediate tones of the colours; what’s left of them before they turn pale. It is important to me, to keep traces of time, but to expand them with a contemporary expression.
In your exploration of time and identity, you avoid the self-portrait and the representation of key historical figures that may imbue further context. Why is this so, are your subjects personally known to you or are they randomly selected?
So far, I have avoided portraying key historical figures. Most of my portraits were chosen for aesthetic reasons only. I haven’t painted these figures yet, for the narrative of most of these icons would be too much in the foreground. But it doesn’t mean that I would rule it out completely.
Alongside images derived from the mass media and historical archives, your work is populated by finely painted animals. In the apparent tension that ensues, what purposes do these serve?
Talking about the representation of animals means going back to prehistoric times when a successive sequence of historical connections was still ahead. The first thing man was aware of was the struggle for existence. Man was a gatherer and a hunter. The earliest depictions of animals are evidence of a fight that took place between humans and animals. They are symbols that only indicate the question of daily survival before any religious denomination. Grain and bread were still unknown. It was the animal that both nourished and threatened humans.
How man sees himself as identical with the animal, in what way this identity with the animal is expressed in the work of art, becomes all the more clearer when one visualises the living space in which animals and men live together. It is under the sight of their preservation, as well as their threat.
Which artists inspired your early development?
Among the artists that inspired me, I cannot mention only famous painters as there were writers like James Baldwin, Tony Morrison, Irvin D. Yalom, musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and the sleeve designs of vinyl records.
Please explain the underlying philosophy behind works like the series ‘ Origami’, as well as “ Still Riding a Zebra”, (2019), “Radio Men”( 2017) and “Black Wall”( 2013).
In my series ‘Origami’ I try to represent different cultures that collide in a very light way.
‘Still Riding the Zebra’ is about the postcolonial time we’re still living in and the impact on political and social lives.
‘Radio Men’ — the radio in Africa that is present either to listen to music or the messages.
‘Black Walls’ is a series about walls and graffiti about sign writings, illustrations and messages.
The Coronavirus didn’t have so much impact on my work. It also did not inspire me or change my work, though it may have approved my issues about transience and the fragility of the moment even more.
Okwui Enwezor who opened the view to art outside of the Western traditional white world said: “Art cannot change the world but it can give us possibilities to think about the world new.” My paintings are political insofar as they contain a demand for equality. I want to help make minorities more visible. I strive for renewal and an ongoing way with the past.
May 05, 2021
May 04, 2021