Ray Arnatt was born in Nuneham Courtenay, Oxon, England in 1934. From 1951 to 1955, he studied sculpture at the Oxford School of Art, Oxford, UK and from 1957 to 1961 studied at the Royal College of Art in London. He was named a Royal Scholar, Royal College of Art (First Class Honour Degree, was given a Silver Medal for Sculpture, and was Awarded Associate of the Royal College of Art (A.R.C.A.) In 1962, he set up two studios and a metal casting foundry in Berkshire, England to create large bronze work and research the process of direct metal casting. He assumed several visiting artist positions at Canadian institutions before immigrating to Canada in 1981. These included positions at the University of British Columbia (1979), Emily Carr College of Art, Vancouver (1979-1980), Alberta College of Art (1987), Red Deer College (1987), Lethbridge University (1986), Okanagan College,(1985), and the Grande Prairie College (1985). In 1981 he was hired as Professor of Sculpture at the University of Calgary and served as Acting Head, Department of Art, from 1992 to 1993.
Ray Arnatt's sculpture explored ideas related to his interests in mathematics, philosophy and quantum physics. He was fascinated by binary oppositions and comparisons, such as positive/negative, up/down and inside/outside, concepts that he explored in often large-scale assemblages made of disparate parts. With his ranging interests, he was variously described as a scientist, artist and professor, however when asked to label himself, often used the word “poet.” His work has been shown extensively in the UK and Canada, including at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Muttart Public Art Gallery, the Glenbow Museum, the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie and the Triangle Art Gallery of Visual Arts. He created over a dozen large-scale commissioned works and is represented in many public and private collections in Canada and overseas.
He lived in Cochrane, Alberta, with his wife and daughter until his death from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2004.