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Riddington's work is literal minded in the best sense. Every idea his imagination proposes has to be measured against his own direct observation and lived experience. Everything has to be felt, not just emotionally but actually, or offer the possibility of being so. And yet the results are often cryptic.
His self-portraits seem a form of self-effacement. This occurs literally in 'A Crowd', where his face is masked by a self-portrait by Van Dyck.
In 'Protection', the first of a triptych, he has turned his back on the viewer, any trace of his profile concealed by the macintosh he is wearing. Conversely, in 'Foil' and 'Mantle', he appears to gaze directly at us. His expression is not quite empty, rather sullenly impassive, as if to suggest that, like a model, he is no more than the form upon which the true subject of these images is draped - the 'clothes' that form displays. If there is something mysterious about these photographs then in the first at least that mystery seems obvious: who is this figure? In the others it deepens. Why is he posed in these ways and lit like a figure in a Dutch old master? What occupation requires such a uniform? None, as it transpires, the artist has assembled them from a Chesterfield chair he dissected.
In 'Walk', the artist has apparently vanished, but has left an image of himself on a lamppost. Initially, I thought it conveyed a sense that loneliness was never very far away. On looking again the word I would use is 'isolation'. 'Isolated' but autonomous, he seems very much his own agent, one that appears to invite the viewer to follow him, if only a certain distance.
In 'Thumb' it is as if the act of looking has become synonymous with the wear and tear documented; as if that repeated gaze itself has coarsened and blackened its object.
Despite being the most direct examples of the hand of the artist in that they are drawings, the 'Comforting Drawings I and II' doggedly imitate machine made printed patterns that deny that hand. Though in the latter the artist has creased the picture, granting it an additional sculptural quality.
The works are created from elements prosaic, even banal, their effects deliberately muted. And yet there is always something enigmatic about them, even, at times, subtly hallucinatory: the couch that returns something like a human face, though its gaze remains stubbornly thing-like ('Couch'); the couch in which the artist has clothed himself ('Foil' and 'Mantle'); the odd shapes imagination has bent and torqued a supermarket shopping trolley, whose loops and latticework form the shadow in 'Home'; a remnant of an unfinished work, discarded on the ground that, Odradek-like, appears to draw itself up preparatory to scuttling off, though it is only the viewers eye that moves it ('Three').
I sense a disenchantment behind Riddington's work, borne of the monotony of much trodden city routes and domestic routines, of arduous menial work and enforced conviviality; a dismay that has quietly become amazement.
- Sean Lawley
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