Biographical statement

chris rigby shetland

“It was whilst studying Illustration at Falmouth School of Art that I developed an interest in the techniques of the Old Masters. It seemed to me that much of what I was taught was built on the foundation which they provided. Through them I sought, what I saw as the source.”

My interest lead in time to painters such as Cezanne. In his work I saw directness and honesty. Previously, Cezanne (and others even easier to access) had been something of an enigma to me but once I got it, that’s to say, once I ‘got’ Cezanne, it was like having a conjurer’s trick revealed to me. The thing is, the only person hiding the trick from me, was myself, there was no trick.
Perhaps self-deception is all part of the human psyche; actually I’m certain of it. Also we live in a world that takes advantage of that tendency. So much depends on deception and I think we get used to it and fail to recognise honesty when confronted with it; are resistant to it even.

In Cezanne’s art I see a representation of things as they really are, or at the very least one very dedicated interpretation of how they really are. Cezanne used paint to ask questions of the world and the paintings are results of that enquiry. He laid it all out before me and all I had to do was open my eyes and let it in. In a nutshell that is my whole objective; to keep open my eyes and soul.

My experience as a viewer of art is that I can go for long periods not seeing anything that really inspires or moves me in any way. I have come to the feeling that maybe it was that there was something wrong with me that I wasn’t responding to stuff. Then I’ll see something that saves me so to speak. Either with its quality, it’s clarity, ingenuity or incisive observation…whatever it is that makes it work, it will throw everything else into perspective.

I want to make art that has a massive emotional impact and leaves you in no doubt that you have seen something worth seeing. I want an art that lives and breathes; for the substance to embody the idea. I like my painting to have a sense of urgency, to feel necessary.

For me, the urge to paint is driven by a sense of enquiry into the nature of things and the need to connect. A quest for self-knowledge. Through paint I explore the world of perceived things and experiences in an attempt to get closer to an understanding of myself. I am filled with the urge to go direct to the source. Through direct observation I feel I can do this. My perceptions are challenged; things are rarely if ever what I initially perceive them to be

Sometimes it is like a voyage of discovery or rather self-discovery. Sometimes I feel like an archaeologist scraping through the layers to get to my own ancient being.

In terms of the physical processes involved in my work I work my paintings hard. What is hung on the wall is that which has survived the process. I intend to strip away all un-necessary detail to leave only what is essential in order for the painting to work. I try to paint with honesty and integrity. It isn’t necessarily easy to know whether you are being honest with yourself but the more you practice it and follow the required actions, the easier it gets and you are better able to recognise it in your work and that of others.

Another way I see my process is that of myself as facilitator, I am after revealing artistic truths. It is there and I am the conduit through which it translates into something tangible, all I have to do is remove the obstacles, clear the way, let it flow through me and onto the canvas. At its best I remove myself from the process. There is a famous quote (or maybe not so famous as I can’t remember who uttered it), a painter said something to the effect “my work goes well until I get in the way”.

Removing myself from the process can be easier to achieve outside. Whilst it can seem a bit hardcore getting the painting kit out in the street on a cold winters night or braving the strong coastal or mountain winds with my hat held on my head by spare thermals, to set to some serious painting, in many ways it is easier than being in the comfort zone of the studio because it has already done away with that ‘comfort’ which can stop me seeing clearly and puts me outside where I feel most alive – outside, where all my best thoughts come to me (a life outside was also one of the big early inspirations behind what I do). Painting in the elements is absolutely vital for breathing life into my studio work. Work in the studio draws upon those experiences in the field and is a further reflection upon those experiences in the process of taking the work further.¬†

¬†More and more I am thinking about colour and its emotional impact but simpler than that, I am taking time to understand my own tastes in colour, trusting to those tastes and driving them into my work, sometimes where they may not have otherwise occurred. For me the world is in essence, abstract and needs to be understood in those terms. In my painting I like a strong visceral sense of realism and for the paint to have a life and integrity of it’s own. I am after a freedom of brush stroke (or more often than not, a flourish of palette knife) that allows the paint to speak its language. I want my work to have the power and impact of Abstract expressionist painting, which is my current trajectory. These things change of course, you never reach the end, you just get to the next step; it just leads you on to the next question.


Search an archive of selected exhibitions through the years.