Virginia Ryan is an Australian born artist working in Italy and in the Ivory Coast, West Africa. She is an Australian/Italian binational.
For the last thirty years, Ryan has worked internationally in the fields of painting, photography, sculpture and installations, solo and in collaborative projects with artists, anthropologists and musicians.
Since 1981 she lived and worked with artists in Alexandria in Egypt (1982-1985), Curitiba in Brazil (1988-1990), during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in Belgrade in Serbia (1990-1992), Edinburgh (1992-1995) and Accra in Ghana (2001-2007).
Otherwise since the 80s she has been based in Rome and in Umbria in Italy, her country of adoption.
With the late Professor Joe Nkrumah, Ryan co-foundered the Foundation for Contemporary Art (FCA) in Ghana in 2004. She was Director until 2007. As part of her support for younger artists in Africa, Ryan also connected up practicing artists of the foundation with New York University campus in Ghana.
Much of her artistic research in the years 2000-2010 has been concerned with identity, land and memory, resulting in large scale projects such as 'The Castaways Project' a collaborative project with sound artist, ethnomusicologist and anthropologist Steven Feld.
Since 2008, she has shown in the Biennales of Malindi, Dakar and Venice.
In 2008, the city of Spoleto honoured her with an anthological survey at the Museum of Modern Art as an official event of the 51st International 'Festival of Two Worlds'.
In the 2008 catalogue of Ryan's work 'Africa and Beyond' art critic Achille Bonito Oliva observes:
''The strategy of Virginia Ryan who states the right to her own imagery, fleeing the logic of dual extremism: globalisation or tribalisation. She adopts the tactics of cultural nomadism to escape the perverse consequence of a tribal identity. At the same time she claims symbolic production against the commodification of a now global economy. In this way she states the right to the diaspora, to multicultural, transnational and multimedia crossing. She thus eludes any logic of belonging through a fundamental choice which tends to deny the value of space, habitat and the respective surrounding anthropology, in favour of a value of time condensed in the form of the work.
''Virginia Ryan stoically and freely chooses the diaspora, that tragic historic fate suffered by many peoples in both East and West, In this sense the work acquires a Utopian value in the true sense of the word, the preference for a non-place, for a “dematerialized elsewhere” that does not require permanence or definitive occupation. Painting, sculpture, photography, design and architecture interweave in the production of installations that can stand in any space, but without the risk of being totally integrated. The nomadism and eclecticism of style that supports the form helps the establishment of a gradual decomposition with respect to the spatial unity of the productive moment and the temporal unity of the moment of contemplation. Virginia Ryan’s work acts like a blender that creates interaction between the various forms of language and dematerializes every traditional aesthetic category''
In 2010 Virginia Ryan was interviewed alongside leading international artists by Steve Feld for the book Between Art and Anthropology in a conversation around her work in West Africa.
In 2012 Ryan set up a new studio, named ''Abidjan Art Factory'', in the Ivory Coast, which will be situated in Grand Bassam from the 1st of January 2013
At ''Abidjan Art Factory'', Ryan aims to bring a new dimension to visual 'Urban Art' in her projects such as the photographic cycle 'Selling Dreams' and in a joyous cycle of large scale, finely detailed acrylic paintings inspired by the African Pagne 'wax print' cloths sold in the specialist boutiques in Rue Du Commerce in Abidjan.