American, b. 1980
Ryan Estep’s work addresses questions of touch, labor, materiality and process. Estep’shighly process driven and monochromatic canvases assert a post minimalist tradition. Experimenting with unusual materials, Estep acts upon his paintings as an engagement in a tactile experience, often giving new credence to the idea of the "hand of the artist." Working in series, each following a set of rules, which determine his gestures used but never their results.
Informed by his background in manual labor, Estep seeks inspiration by wandering through construction sites, where he often sources raw materials for his latest works (think dirt heated to 600 degrees and then applied to canvas). He sterilizes soil in a kiln before sifting it through a metal screen onto canvases coated with glue in a careful Ben-Day dot pattern—which he ends up smearing when he removes the screen. What does one call dirt when it has been sterilized and thus no longer "dirty"? This now sterile material is then silkscreened onto canvas and re-stretched while wet, marking the artist's presence into a work born of scientific transformation and protocols. Estep will also paint the edges of a large canvas with a mixture of black pigment and Lidocaine, a skin-numbing agent that makes his hands fumble as he attempts to re-stretch the wet canvas on its frame.
His experimental working method puts so much emphasis on the physicality of materials and of the process itself that his work takes on a performative quality (numbing his hands is a frequent component of his canvas re-stretching process), with the end product the result of a dynamic struggle between process, material, the artist's hand, and, of course, the element of chance. Estep could be described as a creator of intentional accidents working in the spirit of a process-oriented approach.