THE STILL POINT
28 October - 18 November 2003
John Ridgewell (1937-2004), was an Essex native, who studied alongside David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj at the Royal College of Art. He and his family moved around England, from Yorkshire to Suffolk, via Dorset, his surroundings creeping into and influencing his paintings. From the gestural, heavier treatment of paint in his student days, his works became lighter in terms of colour, but more intensely intricate in their subject matter. Their delicacy was built up with brushes, a palette knife and textiles, using, frottage, a technique which Max Ernst had explored, printing from textiles and found objects directly onto the canvas.
His pieces are fascinating compressions of art history – in them can be read the early, profound influence of Georges Braque, a hint of British Surrealism in their witty treatment of subject, and the meticulous trompe l’oeil of 17th Century Dutch and Flemish paintings. His influences were many and varied, and despite his desire to be seen as merely a landscape painter, his works are so densely allusive that they transcend their subject. His paintings initially seemed to be attempts to merge his media and the landscape, such as those from the 1960s, where paint stands out from the canvas, and the horizon line is pushed upwards by angular shapes that could be rock strata, field patterns, or Braque’s cubist reductions.
Latterly, these elisions were between the real and the surreal, as in a painting of a sheet, laid out in a receding landscape, with letters that spell out his wife and child’s names. Ridgewell also played with the picture plane itself, creating trompe l’oeil frames from which the painting bled outwards, appearing to wrap the canvas with string and even painting on the back of the canvas itself. In these later works, there is a lingering sense of things drifting into a vague, unknown distance, fading into a pale, almost tempera-like blue. In his final paintings, this blue takes over, in paintings that could be both still lives or landscapes.
He showed regularly during his lifetime at The New Art Centre and Fischer Fine Art in London, in Gothenberg, Salzburg, Toronto, Dublin and Luxemburg. His works are in a number of public collections including the Government Art Collection, The Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston, Nuffield College, Oxford and the Royal College of Art.