James Barnor and Veronica Ryan Share Their Extraordinary Journeys

The legendary photographer and Turner Prize-nominated artist discuss how their lives and their art have been in continual movement 

BY James Barnor AND Veronica Ryan in Collaborations | 27 OCT 22

At 180 The Strand During Frieze Week in London, the pop-up exhibition Moncler – The Extraordinary Expedition told the story of Moncler’s 70-year history with a multisensory journey into their past, present and future. To coincide with The Extraordinary Expedition, Frieze collaborated with Moncler to bring renowned contemporary artists to share their own extraordinary journeys, both literal and figurative.  

In the first in person event, filmmaker Adu Lalouschek joined James Barnor to discuss his almost mythological life as a game-changing international photographer. From working as a photojournalist during Ghanaian independence in the 1950s, and producing some of the 1960s most recognisable press portraits, Barnor has been applauded for both his artistic vision and technical mastery for over six decades. Within the vast spectrum of his work, Barnor continually centres humanity, saying: 'I love people. I love meeting people'.  

Photo: Luke Fullalove
James Barnor and Adu Lalouschek. Photo: Luke Fullalove

"With me, when I get somewhere to live or a dark room, then I've got a studio. I don't worry about studio. As long as when I shut my door I can print, develop and print, I have a studio."

"I loved meeting the people who got new clothes, who come in and they're in love, and their connection with their clothes is something that you can't forget, especially when a child is clothed with something new. I know women always like to be photographed with their handbags as well as their shoes. Men, sometimes they come, and they forget their body so that you see them and their hands."

"That was what I enjoyed in photography, and in people, and in my work especially. Any time that I found I've got a picture which is different, I want."

"Basically, I'm a technician, but I think I approached colour with the same technical attitude."

"Civilization flourishes when men plant trees under which they themselves will never sit. You do things you may not get the benefits of it, others will. Giving is even sometimes better than receiving, you will get more when you give."

– James Barnor 

James Barnor, Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck stepping out of a Jaguar in Kilburn, London, 1966. © James Barnor. Courtesy: Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière, Paris
James Barnor, Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck stepping out of a Jaguar in Kilburn, London, 1966. © James Barnor. Courtesy: Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière, Paris

At the second in-conversation event, Jenni Lomax, curator and long-term champion of Veronica Ryan’s practice, explained: ‘there's lots of words that you can use about the way Veronica works. Carving, casting, stacking, sewing, weaving, binding, gathering, collecting, piling’. Expanding on the nomadic essence of Ryan’s sculptures, including her Turner Prize 2022 nomination and commission to honour the Windrush Generation, Ryan explained how artworks can embark on their own journey beyond the maker’s control. 

Photo: Luka Fullalove
Jenni Lomax and Veronica Ryan. Photo: Luke Fullalove

"Part of what happens with moving around a lot is that I tend to carry things around with me that I collect. Then sometimes they become things but it's also to do with the idea of traveling, both literally and conceptually and metaphorically."

"The work is actually quite associative in cross-referencing and seeing where the connections are. I think when children don’t have a chance to have a music lesson, they're only taught to read or to do a very particular addition, and so on, they’re not getting a sense early on about different possibilities."

"I have particular ideas, and then I might make something which triggers part of some of my thinking. A lot of the way I work is through materials and then the material often suggest it's an impossibility. So, in a way, I feel as I'm having a conversation with the material and myself, and that often the material suggests where it wants to go."

Veronica Ryan Collective Moments V , 2022 Plaster, hairnet, plastic bags 10 x 9 x 16 cm ( 4 x 3 1/2 x 6 1/4 in ) (AJG - VR - 00235) Courtesy Alison Jacques, London © Ve ronica Ryan Photo : Michael Brzezinski
Veronica Ryan, Collective Moments V, 2022. © Veronica Ryan. Courtesy: Alison Jacques, London. Photo: Michael Brzezinski

"I'm also interested in the fact that once you made something, there's a kind of abstraction that is attached to something that's not the same as it's original thing."

"I think there are always threads that continue in the work, but it's also influenced by the particular environment I'm in, by both people and the landscape."

– Veronica Ryan 

‘The Extraordinary Expedition’ celebrates Moncler's 70th anniversary with an immersive installation which opened in New York on October 5th, followed by London (October 12th-16th) and Seoul (November 18th-22nd)

Main image: James Barnor and Adu Lalouschek in conversation at 180 The Strand, October 2022. Photo: Luke Fullalove

Discover more about Moncler – The Extraordinary Expedition here

James Barnor’s first solo exhibition took place at the Black Cultural Archives, London, UK, in 2007, followed by a major show at Autograph ABP, London, in 2010. Recent exhibitions include ‘James Barnor: A Retrospective’ at Nubuke Foundation, Accra, Ghana, in 2019. In April 2021, his work was screened at Piccadilly Circus, London, by the Serpentine and CIRCA. His retrospective, ‘Accra/London’, was on view at the Serpentine Gallery, London in October 2021.

Veronica Ryan is an artist based in New York, USA and Bristol, UK. Her solo exhibition is on view at Alison Jacques London until November 12th, 2022.