With Dave McKean running close behind, Rob Ryan is by far and away my favourite artist. His signature style is Matissean paper-cut, constructing all of his artwork from individual, hand-cut silhouettes.
He’s released two books previously, This Is For You and A Sky Full of Kindness, and also illustrated Carol Ann Duffy’s children’s book The Gift. The Invisible Kingdom is very much in the same vein as his previous two. It doesn’t depart from his wheelhouse, but that’s no bad thing, because he’s a master at it. The stories he tells are fable-like and deceptively simple, told with an understated earnestness that delicately plays the heartstrings, rather than hammering away at them. The Invisible Kingdom concerns a prince raised in the palace, isolated from both the world outside and from any kind of interaction that isn’t bowing and scraping. He discovers first the ‘invisible kingdom’ of his imagination, and then the city that sleeps beyond his windows.
As with any Rob Ryan, it’s is elegant, simple and beautifully told – both with words and images. The papercut style seems to cut through the trappings and distractions of most fiction and instead pares it down to emotion and heart, in perfect synchronicity to the story. If you’ve never read anything by him, I strongly recommend tracking down some of his work (although I would still suggest starting with This Is For You, which remains my favourite.) Thankfully, it also looks like these book releases are annual, so I look forward to the next in 2014.