Robert Ryan’s The Inborn Absolute is not just a beautiful art book, it is a spiritual odyssey. Aside from showcasing Ryan's paintings and sketches from the last half-decade, it also includes contributions from legendary tattooist Freddy Corbin and experimental artist and musician Genesis P-Orridge. There are also introductions by art critic Andrew Berardini and Joan of Arc’s vocalist Tim Kinsella.
Ryan's luminous book illustrates the trajectory of his career as well as his mystical journey throughout the last 20 years, detailing how he came to tattooing, or rather how tattooing found him, and how Hare Krishna and ayahuasca helped him find balance in his life and emulate this feeling of inner-harmony in his work.
“The paintings I am sharing in the following pages are distillations of distant cultures, esoteric cults, and ancient technologies. Most of these aspects are expressions of stories taught to me by shamans, sadhus, magicians, and fakirs,” writes Ryan in the foreword of his book. “It was a path perfectly mapped out and swept clear for me by the grace of the divine.”
Ryan’s paintings and sketches are a concoction of psychedelic splendor and sacred undercurrents. He fuses iconography and symbols from various ancient religions — Hinduism, Christianity, etc. — and cultures in a style that is reminiscent of traditional tattoos.
The writing that bookends Ryan’s paintings and sketches is a large part of what makes "The Inborn Absolute" such a thought-provoking book. It opens with an extensive dialogue between Ryan and Corbin. They discuss a wide range of subjects, including how Ryan first discovered Hare Krishna as a punk rocker back in the ‘80s, started experimenting with mind-altering substances like LSD, and ultimately became a globetrotting tattooist who chases the transcendental wherever he goes. In their talk, they touch upon everything from vegetarianism, working with other legends in the industry, and doing puja ceremonies in tattoo shops.
The book also features a roundtable with Ryan, P-Orridge, and Kinsella about their respective philosophies of art, senses of spirituality, and how it all fits in with the political discourse of today’s world. They talk about strange and provocative subjects like fetuses smiling at the cosmic joke of existence, the hypocritical perceptions toward factory farms versus Santeria, having out of body experiences, and even a letter that Charles Manson sent P-Orridge from prison. For as bizarre and wide-ranging as their conversation is, it gives incredible insight into the nature of the universe and humanity’s place in the greater scheme of things.
"The Inborn Absolute" makes for a trippy and enlightening read with the power to make the viewer reconsider their perception of the world. Overall, it is a profound and beautiful title that belongs on the shelf of anyone who’s interested in expanding their consciousness.
If you like to pick up a copy of The Inborn Absolute, here’s the link to where you can purchase it. To see some of Ryan’s more recent artwork as well as his tattoos, pay a visit to his Instagram. He works at Electric Tattoo in Asbury Park, New Jersey and can be reached at Robertryan23@gmail.com for consultations, should you desire a mystical piece of body art from him.