Karen Ryan is a contemporary British designer based in Portsmouth, England. She completed her Masters in Arts in Design Products at the Royal College of Art under Ron Arad. Often described as a "design agitator" working on the fringes of the design world and subverting accepted categories, her work anatomizes existing objects and reconfigures them according to complex personal narratives and obsessional themes. Her work is the subject of several recent publications, has been the subject of exhibits in Milan, London, Paris, and Belgium, and is often heralded as an exemplar of green design and recycling due to her use of pre- existing materials in a non-industrial context. However, Ryan's motivations run much deeper and involve a critical reframing of the very notion of the useful and the useless. Objects, most often cast- offs sourced at thrift stores or scavenged as valueless detritus from the streets, find a redemptive second life as protagonists in a sustained attack on "taste" and its role as a mark of social distinction. Concerned with re-inscribing social reality back into an exhausted circuit of aesthetic exchange preoccupied with luxury, Karen Ryan's work radically questions social and class categories and their relation to the aesthetic by looking at what loses aesthetic value and is discarded over time, despite retaining functional value. Along with narrative concerns she explores through her practice the collective fantasy of a kind of zero point in design, subverting modernist canons and notions of production.
2001 - Master in Arts in Design Products at The Royal College of Art London UK.
1998 - Master in Arts By Project in Fine Art at University of Portsmouth UK.
1996 - Bachelor of Arts in 3 D Design and Fine Art at University of Portsmouth UK.
Higher B-Tech Graphic Design at Hounslow Borough College UK.
Foundation Art at Goldmiths, London University UK.
Solo & Group Exhibitions
- 2011 - Verwandlungen - Metamorphosen Galerie Handwerk, Munich.
'Second Hand' Plates.
- 2011 - Superdesign, London.
'Custom Made in England' Vanity Series.
- 2011 - Useless, The Wandering Pain, EXD'11, Lisbon.
'Custom Made' Chair.
- 2011 - Sit Chair Project, London Design Week.
- 2011 - New Olds, Holon Design Museum, Tel Aviv.
'Custom Made' Chair.
- 2011 - Next Art Fair, Balloon Contemporary, Chicago.
' In The Woods USA' & 'Body USA'.
- 2011 - Dallas Art Fair, Converso & Balloon Contemporary,Dallas.
'In The Woods USA' & 'Body USA'.
- 2011 - Overlap, Den Frie Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen.
' In The Woods' Pair.
- 2011 - Loaded, Spring Projects, London.
' Custom Made Vanity' Chair.
- 2011 - Body Installation, Portsmouth UK.
- 2010 - Awkward, Marsden Woo Gallery, London.
'Awkward' Whittle & Black Ink.
- 2010 - Straw Dogs, Spring Projects Gallery London.
'Custom Made in England' Vanity series.
- 2010 - New Olds, IFA- Gallery Stuttgart.
'Custom Made' Chair.
- 2010 - Next Art Fair, Balloon Contemporary, Chicago.
'Custom Made U.S.A' Series No.1.
- 2010 - 13.798 Grams of Design, Lambretto Art Project, Milan.
- 2010 - Object Rotterdam, Rabih Hage Gallery, Rotterdam.
'Custom Made' chairs, 'Untitled' lights and 'Another Chair.
- 2009 - Sketch popup cafe, The Royal Academy London.
'In The Woods' Pair.
- 2009 - Exhibition on my Dining Table, installation in Portsmouth, England.
'Dining table Politics'.
- 2009 - 'Wish List' Li Edelkoort Exhibition and Auction at Pierre Berge, Brussels.
'In The Woods' Chair.
- 2009 - Milan Exhibition in a room in Portsmouth, England.
‘Litter’ & ‘In The Woods’ Chair.
- 2009 - Work In Progress, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth.
- 2008 - Designersblock ,London.
‘Boarded Up’ Lights & ‘Another Chair’
- 2008 - Volta VIP Lounge Rabih Hage, Basel.
‘Custom Made’ Chairs & ‘Untitled’ Light.
- 2008 - Modern English, Anthropologie, New York.
'Unmade 07’ Vases & ‘Second Hand’ Plates.
- 2008 - Fuorisalone, Rossana Orlandi, Milan.
‘Wood Work’ Lights & ‘Made Modern’ Chair.
- 2008 - Nest, CBK Apeldoorn, Apeldoorn.
‘Custom Made’ Chair.
- 2008 - DesignArt, Rabih Hage Gallery, London.
‘Custom Made’ Chairs 'Landscape Table’ & ‘Untitled’ Lights.
- 2007 - Trash Luxe, Liberty’s, London.
‘Unmade 07’ Vases, ‘Custom Made’ Chairs & ‘Landscape Table’.
- 2007 - Designersblock, London.
'Untitled Lights & ‘Landscape Tables’.
- 2007 - Handle With Care, Designboom, Designersblock, London.
‘Second Hand’ Plates.
- 2007 - Deptford Design Market Challenge, Royal Festival Hall, London.
'I Remember This Book'.
- 2006 - 100% Design, London.
‘Custom Made’ The Blue Collection & ‘Second Hand’ Plates.
- 2006 - Custom made, Rabih Hage Gallery, London.
‘Custom Made’ Furniture & ‘Second Hand’ Plates.
- 2006 - Entratalibera, Glamour Design store, Milan.
'Custom Made’ Chairs & Table.
- 2006 - Classic Lab, Salon Du Meuble, Paris.
‘Custom Made’ Chairs & Tables.
- 2006 - Renewal and Reinvention, Rabih Hage Gallery, London.
‘Custom Made’ Chairs & Table.
- 2005 - 100% Design, London.
Wasted installation ‘Custom Made’ Chairs & Tables.
- 2003 - 100% Design, London.
‘Tilt’ Chair & ‘Portsmouth’ Magazine Fruit Bowl.
- 2002 - Aram Gallery, London, group exhibition.
‘Visual Mechanics’ Conceptual Furniture Graphics.
- 2002 - Habiter, Paris.
‘Folding Chairs’ ‘Tuck Table’ ‘Plate Sleeves' & ‘Visual Mechanics'.
- 2002 - 100% Design, London.
‘Folding Chairs’ ‘Visual Mechanics’ ‘Plate Sleeves' & 'Plasticine shelf’.
- 2001 - Summer Show, Royal College of Art, London.
‘Folding Chairs’ ‘Plate Sleeves' & ‘Visual Mechanics’.
- 2000 - Day Out, Oxo Tower Gallery, London.
- 1996 - Nine Artists, Cubit Gallery, London.
- 2008 - Aspex Gallery Designer Maker Award.
- 2002 - Craft Council 100% Design Bursary Winner.
- 2002 - 100% Design, Best Newcomer Nominee.
- 1995 - Swedish Timber Award, 1st Prize for Product Design.