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T.O.Y, Totems Of Youth

April 6th - 18th, 2019


The New York Times recently labelled Bootleg Toys’ collecting as ‘an art form born of nostalgia.’


G.I. Joe soldiers, plastic Master of the Universe barbarians and Star Wars figurines, and all sorts of other comic books and horror movies’ characters were the usual 1980s teen bedroom’s staples and they have, in recent years, become as collectable as highly valued pieces of art work.


In fact, the ongoing discussion as to whether these iconic items should be seen as artwork or simply as vintage toys, is somewhat of a delicate matter as many see the skill, production and dedication involved in producing these items comparable to those invested in the making of art.


Well-established and up-and-coming artists alike have, in recent years, added their own views on the subject by producing new pieces, packaging and all, not only to reminisce about their childhoods but also to elevate the appreciation of these toys to incredibly thoughtful pieces of art.


What once was the supremacy of large toy companies has now become the realm of artisans and artists who will spend countless hours designing, moulding, casting and packaging plastic and resin collectible figurines that not only make us recall our 70s and 80s childhoods but also bring about contemporary, esoteric, philosophical and political statements.


T.O.Y, Totems of Youth shows a selection of both classic and new pieces produced by Ryan Callanan as well as pieces by the godfathers of toy collecting such as Ron English, Anthony Lister, Frank Kozik, Suckadelic or Trap Toys, to name a few.

All pieces available for sale by Ryan Callanan can be seen below. All other pieces both by Ryan and other toy-making artists can be seen at our gallery from April 6th until April 18th.


Showcasing original toys by:

Ron English

Anthony Lister

Frank Kozik


Trap Toys

Sweet Toof


Ryan Callanan

Chosen as a British Jubilee Artist alongside Peter Blake, Ryan studied 3D Design and Modelmaking at Barking College, in Dagenham, London. In the early days, the artist started to experiment with street art and, soon after, he produced his first screenprint which sold out within weeks. He then became known as RYCA.


With a background in printing and pub sign-making, Ryan’s artworks employ a quirky and clever use of imagery drawn from popular culture. ‘It is important to me that my work is recognisable and accessible, that is why I like to experiment with symbols that I grew up with by appropriating them and giving them a humorous twist’, Ryan explains.


Callanan's emblematic series of three-dimensional smiley faces, synonymous with the Acid House rave culture of the 1980s, quickly made him a name amongst collectors, who appreciated the artist’s original take on the famous symbol by using a new mix of gold-inlay and black-painted glass techniques and preserving an artisan approach to producing work.


Ryan employs his craftsmanship as a three-dimensional sign writer and model maker in order to create awe-inspiring limited-edition typography and sculptures. Many of his signs, made with glass, resin, gold and paint, explore the use of colloquial words, song lyrics and popular quotes. His collection of expletive-insertions, in which an expletive is inserted into a word, has become a symbol of Ryan’s playful diving into British popular culture; his experimentation with lyrics have resulted in highly collectable editions amongst musicians, music producers and writers.


Ryan's interest in working with different materials and methods keep his work fresh and in a constant state of change. ‘I’m interested in studying, discovering and experimenting with various processes and technological advances’, Ryan explains. Fellow artist Ben Eine has recently called Ryan a ‘chemist-like artist’.


Ryan would like to 'really establish the aesthetic of old fashion signage as an art form’.


Ryan Callanan has collaborated with acclaimed artists such as DJ Fatboy Slim, Sick Boy, Ben Eine, David Walker and Stik, amongst others.


We have been working with Ryan since 2010 when he first showed a solo body of work at ink_d Gallery, Brighton, where Dan was working as a curator.

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