Ryan Mc Elhinney – Designer / Background
Irish Artist-designer Ryan Mc Elhinney was born in Dublin in 1973.
Classically trained as an Animator, Ryan has worked on many Feature movies in Europe and America for Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox. While working with Arizona-based Fox, a chance reading of the first issue of Wallpaper magazine set him on a different path. “Contemporary design was like a breath of fresh air”, explains Mc Elhinney. A career as a product designer blossomed, along with a love of local thrift and house clearance stores. Trawling for materials quickly became an obsession, with Mc Elhinney’s natural eye and vivid imagination ensuring he spotted the perfect finds to bring to life his early designs. Full of expression and movement, dollar-a-bag sacks of second-hand plastic toys became the designer’s chosen medium. Telling a story with each manipulation, Mc Elhinney meticulously painted and fused together each figure in a six week process, creating the first in his series of ‘Toy’ frames and lamp bases.
Endlessly inventive, designs range from the Knot sofa, winner of the Peugeot Design Awards and finalist in both the BIDA and FX awards, to the Swarovski crystal-encrusted ‘groom and groom’ figures rumored to have topped Elton and David’s wedding cake. Today, recycling is more current than ever and remains at the heart of Mc Elhinney’s work. Fusing old and new, he transforms found objects to continuously surprising effect. A world away from the dated image of how recycled should look, his sexy, urban projects and hand-made one-of-a-kind sculptures have enjoyed the attention of design aficionados from Philippe Starck to Kanye West, who recently enthused about the designer’s subversively glamorous gold-painted Toy Lamps.
Commissions include a nine-foot-tall Toy Tree for The Gallery at Sketch, Award winning Salon Interiors for Adee Phelan in London and Birmingham, residential projects for Carrie Fisher and the interiors of four bars co-owned with his brother. Mc Elhinney’s sculptures have been sold around the world; from Singapore to Berlin, each one unique and impressive.
Mc Elhinney’s current ‘Toy Boy’ series shows young male figures, whose poignant expressions and poses silently tell tales of forced abandoned innocence at War.
“It seems as though every time I turn on the TV or read a paper, another soldier has died or a youth has been shot or stabbed on our streets. As most of the victims are young men, I decided to make a series of sculptures out of salvaged toys depicting these young people.
The use of toys represents the youth of the victims and the de-humanisation of a generation bombarded with images, videos and games loaded with scenes of bloody combat.
Each sculpture has a set of angel wings representing our immaculate lives at birth; it is only through life that we are tarnished by a world in constant conflict.”
Mc Elhinney continues to push the boundaries of salvaging and re-imagining discarded materials and is currently working on a series of installations using empty shotgun shells to create epic imposing works of art that expand on his theme of War and crime.