Artist, researcher and activist

Susan Ryland is a cross-disciplinary artist and political activist exploring language as it tilts between the literal and metaphoric. She lectures in Creativity Innovation and Invention at Imperial College London.


For Susan, a delight in language-play underpins her exploration of visual and linguistic ambiguity. Over the years her viewpoint has moved from interpersonal dynamics (etchings 1995-98) Doormat and On The Table to political, social and environmental tensions. The later etchings within this series included Europa: Man on Cow (1999) commissioned by Courtauld Galleries in response to etchings by Tiepolo. This was followed by Global Positioning (2001) in collaboration with artist Clare Ajenusi commissioned by Tate Britain for the exhibition of the 18th century political satirist James Gillray, James Gillray: The Art Of Caricature.


A shift from traditional print processes to scalable digital media led to a series of Arts Council funded site-specific interventions including Lights and Light and Breath (2004) at St Mary’s Church Guildford and Nuns Walk (soundwork) at Polesden Lacey National Trust property (2006).


Susan's doctoral research Resisting Metaphors examined creative thinking - specifically how metaphor and metonymy function in creative thought within art practice and analysis. The field of cognitive linguistics proved to be the best source of empirical research in metaphor and metonymy. This presented both a dilemma and an opportunity as, at that time, the study of language was considered the best way to understand how we use metaphorical thought. Having gained a thorough understanding of cognitive linguistic theory, Susan embarked on a process of translating linguistic principles into broader concepts that could accommodate visual thinking. She regularly presented her work-in-progress at international cognitive linguistics conferences in order to test the validity of her findings. Her research was warmly embraced by the cognitive linguistics community and today cognitive linguistic studies include an expanding range of human senses of which visual language plays an increasingly significant part.


On completing her doctorate Susan developed an exhibition in collaboration with oboist Helen Thomas that explored how metaphoric and metonymic meaning emerged from sound and materials. The exhibition Soundings: thought over time was supported by the International Research and Applying Metaphor Association (RaAM) and was launched at their conference Metaphor in Mind and Society at the University of Lancaster. The exhibition was toured to Cardiff, Canterbury and London (2012-2015).


Susan's latest project has a working title of Drain and examines the global climate change crisis. 


More details will be posted on her blog as the project develops.

Resisting Metaphors: A Metonymic Approach to the Study of Creativity and Cognition in Art Analysis and Practice
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Copyright Susan Ryland 2008-2017