Gary Ratushniak was born (1957) in Campbell River, a small logging village on the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, but now works and lives in England.
Ratushiak’s early artistic inspiration derived from an engagement with the indigenous Kwakwaka’wakw people of Vancouver. He studied their traditional forms of art and dance, and together with Danny Coon, co-authored ‘Bu-Kwum Heritage’, a book on the legends of the Kwakwaka’wakw people.* He produced prints with first nation themes: dance, shamanic ritual, plants and trees, and the ‘Potlatch’ gatherings – gift-giving feasts which were central to the culture and economy of the Kwakwaka’wakw. Some of these themes are evident in Ratushniak’s contemporary work: there is an emphasis on natural organic forms and the shapes of trees; there are dance motifs, and indigenous craft-like faces are also apparent in the work.
In Campbell River Ratushniak met Sybil Andrews, who became mentor and friend, and with whom he studied drawing, painting and printmaking. Andrews was, of course, one of the finest printmakers in the Grosvenor School (see Claude Flight’s Biography and Sybil Andrews’ Biography). Andrews encouraged a preliminary grounding in drawing: ‘draw everything, everything you like and dislike,’ she would say (Ratushniak: Tribute to Sybil Andrews, 1992). After several years Ratushniak progressed to printmaking, and as a printmaker his work is very much within the Grosvenor School tradition: there is a concentration on movement; a pared down essentialism; an angularity and a vibrancy of colour in many of the prints. What Ratushniak wrote in tribute to Andrews’ work might as equally be applied to his own:…….’I recall her often saying that she strove for movement and form within her work, and that for her, sharp angular curves best expressed the idea that everything was on the move and nothing stood still…’. (Ratushniak: Tribute to Sybil Andrews, 1992).
In 1985, encouraged by Andrews, Ratushniak came to London and took up study at Heatherley’s School of Art. This was, of course, Andrews’ alma mater, and the School which, through Flight, had had most influence on the development of the linocut. After studying at Heatherley’s Ratushniak also took further degrees in Fine Art at Middlesex University. Ratushniak has exhibited throughout Canada, the United States, and the UK, and his works have been bought by collectors worldwide. Selected exhibitions and print fairs include: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (joint show with Danny Coon); Oakville House Gallery, Ontario, Canada; Silver Fox Gallery, London; Conram Gallery, London; Manor House Museum, Bury St. Edmunds (joint show with Sybil Andrews); and Mascalls Gallery, Kent, UK. Among the public collections in Canada holding works by Ratushniak are the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, and Oakville House Gallery, Ontario.
* In recognition, Ratushiak received the honorific ‘Ik-nooh’ (‘Coming from the Goodness’). This was bestowed upon him by the Kwakwaka’wakw for his interest, respect and work with the First Nation people.