Kathleen Ryan: Red Rose | Josh Lilley

I chucked out a rotten half lemon the same morning I saw this show. There was nothing pretty about it, the yellow skin turned wobbly, the innards blue black: fruit spoils so quickly in the summer heat. Kathleen Ryan, on the other hand, sees beauty in this kind of organic ruin; she assembles semi precious gemstones, studded with metal, into sculptures of mouldy fruits, and produces something unique and strange.

There’s a peach, a strawberry and two slices of melon: each emblazoned with hundreds and hundreds of of precious beads of different colours. Similarly evocative, but a bit less crafty, are rusty car hoods, strung with costume pearls in spider web patterns, that suggest a picture frame, or a clam.

kathleen ryan - installation view

The effect is ravishing. I found myself peering closer and closer, tracking the patterns of gemstones that are so pretty close up. Quartz of different kinds. Jasper. Calcite. Labradorite. Crystals. Agate. Only when viewed far away do you see the suggestion of mould.

According to Ben Street’s show notes, throwing up might be an “appropriate response” - though not to the rot, instead to the cliché response that these objects represent the feeling that “all things must pass”. Which was obviously my response, once I backed away from examining the gemstones!

“It’s that too-muchness, that headiness, that mitigates against reading Ryan’s works as straightforward allegories,” he adds. “Everything here is glistening with life, rocking and teetering on the edge of kitsch.”

Fair enough. Ignoring any allegorical interpretations then, let’s enjoy these deliberately tacky objects, these topographies of ruin, these luxury rotten fruits.

Kathleen Ryan: Red Rose is at Josh Lilley (London). 09 June - 13 August 2022