Work / Art

Artist Ralph Pugay injects the absurd and sensational into the everyday

The brightly coloured compositions populated with comically proportioned characters painted by Portland-based artist Ralph Pugay might, at first, distract from the more sinister narratives in his work. The seemingly normal images he paints teeter on the edge of chaos and catastrophe, piling some very disconcerting narratives into a single frame. “I think absurdity is everywhere and a good reminder that circumstances don’t limit themselves to what is supposed to be good or ordinary,” says the artist. “I think breaking down boundaries by way of the absurd is a good meditative practice of waking up and observing.”

Each artwork is given a punchy title – sometimes these are a simple, descriptive effort like Dogs Barking At Weapons, which shows a number of angry, if somehow cute, Rottweilers snarling at an arsenal as it emerges on a baggage carousel. Other titles are more cryptic such as Nightfall, which sees a shower of bodies kitted out in S&M gear fall from the sky. “I think there is a lot of unnecessary visual noise out there and the biggest challenge for me is consistently breaking through it or finding a purpose to break through it,” says Ralph. “I think finding the will to break through all of it can be a good exercise in fine-tuning your antenna to really figure out what you ultimately love and enjoy producing.”

Ralph is currently working on bringing his images to life in a different way. “I am just starting to learn animation on my own and I am finding it to be more laborious than I expected,” he says. “I am loving the lo-fi quality of gifs approached as paintings as well as the frame by frame repetition. Animating, I am finding out is so much about organisation and meditative sequencing, which I think is what my brain needs right now. I am working towards an exhibition of all looping gifs.”


Ralph Pugay: The Birth of Life


Ralph Pugay: Dogs Barking at Weapons


Ralph Pugay: Horsing Around


Ralph Pugay: Endless Samples


Ralph Pugay: Rothkos in Space


Ralph Pugay: Lonely Traveller


Ralph Pugay: Nightfall


Ralph Pugay: All the Poor in the Same Place