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Veronica Ryan: Collective Moments

Veronica Ryan, Collective Moments XL, 2023, Tie-dye pillow case, hair bands, Approx. 15 x 10 x 3 in. Courtesy Alison Jacques, London and Paula Cooper Gallery. © Veronica Ryan. Photo: Michael Brzezinski.

Elemental processes such as tying, binding, staining and stacking are prevalent throughout Veronica Ryan’s work. She deploys these techniques with intense sensitivity as a kind of reckoning or discovery. In these wall-based sculptural works – which sit somewhere between textile, relief, sculpture and painting – pillowcases are tie-dyed and then twisted and bunched with coloured hair bobbles. It creates an object rich with associations to the body, to states of rest, sleep, dream and reverie, as well as the daily rituals and complex cultural signifiers of clothing, care, grooming and hair styling.

In the early 1980s Ryan spent time in Nigeria and became fascinated with how meaning could be wrested from the raw materials of life. It was here that she first witnessed votive objects being fashioned from everyday materials – hair, eggs, chalk and kola nuts – and became fascinated by the way they were invested, through ritual, with a spiritual power, used for psychic defence, personal care, mystical healing or for honouring ancestors.

Collective Moments, 2018/2023, draws on and extends all of these themes and ideas. In the apparent simplicity of its engagement with the humble materials of everyday life, Ryan opens up new systems of meaning. Her works are constellations and expressions of embodied, hand-worked, intuitive and highly-charged material knowledge, what the critic Barry Schwabsky has described as ‘a sort of rumination-by-doing’, or ‘materialised thought process.’ As with so many of Ryan’s works, they play with the familiar forms, languages and histories of modernist Western art, whilst at the same time invoking more active, ritualistic objects, drawn from various African and Caribbean cultures.


This exhibition has been organised by Camden Art Centre, London, and all of the works have been generously donated by Veronica Ryan to be sold in benefit of their charitable mission. All of the proceeds will go directly toward supporting Camden Art Centre’s internationally renowned exhibition, residency and learning programmes.

To find out more about purchasing one of these unique works please email

Camden Art Centre would like to thank Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, Alison Jacques, London and White Columns.