The Studio and Gallery 86 Main Street Kilbirnie KA25 7AA
07963 348934 Opened first of April 2017
Interview with Skyler Ridewood, August, 2017.
AM: To start with would like to talk about your early interest in art. Were you drawn to art when you were a child?
Skyler Ridewood: Yes, that was what I did for fun. I just enjoyed creating and building things.
AM: So when did you first come to see yourself as an artist? What time in your life did you feel you wanted to embark on a career as an artist?
Skyler Ridewood: It wasn't quite that I wanted to. I had always done it, and it almost seemed as if I was driven towards that point, because it was always something I had talent in from a young age. I had been encouraged a lot through it and it just seemed like what I should have done, but I never made a very conscious decision that this is going to be my life, I've always kept quite open about everything. I do this because I like it and I think this is the same with many artists. They love making art and they could not stop doing it.
AM: So did you get much encouragement in school?
Skyler Ridewood: Yes, a huge amount. My teachers were always pushing me forward. They helped me get into University. They always believed in me and that was really nice.
AM: As I understand it, you also had a parallel interest in physics.
Skyler Ridewood: I am extremely interested in how the world works. How the reality around us is held together. How everything works with everything else. I am interested in it at a base level, how it works in its simplest form, or least complex, which I guess physics tries to do even though it is not very simple.
AM: So did you ever consider studying physics and becoming a physicist?
Skyler Ridewood: Yes I did. When I was in my last year at school I was torn between the two, but I realised I could not have seen myself keeping the art going while I was studying so hard. Now I've had four years of just doing art exclusively, it's not going to be possible to stop.
AM: You were drawn to going to the Glasgow School of Art.
Skyler Ridewood: It was the closest school and my teachers had told me about it for years. There is a group in the Glasgow School of Art called 'Widening Participation' which reached out to those schools with low University acceptances which Garnock Academy had been at the time, so they go into the schools and see who is interested in coming to the Art School, and help them out by making portfolios and how to apply. Now I work with 'Widening Participation' and I get to do workshops with high school students and help them to do the very same thing.
AM: So having embarked on your study of art and developing skills as an artist through your course, did you go through a process of seeking influences or other artists before you, whose work you felt particularly drawn to?
Skyler Ridewood: Yes I think many artists do. They have a few trials and errors, but then they figure things out for themselves by looking at other people's work. I used to be really interested in the works of Peter Howson and all the New Glasgow Boys. After that I had this problem where all those narrative paintings that I was seeing that I really liked because they gave me some sort of feeling of identity, something to relate to, because there wasn't many masculine influences in my life and they were that in a sense. After a while I started to find this quite empty, I saw so many contradictions and so did these artists when they got older and I saw how they were living their life and how badly it turned out for them and I just thought 'no one really knows', no one knows the way to live your life and that is what a lot of narrative painting is doing. Narrative painting tries to send you messages and I don't think I know the answers. I don't think anybody does.
AM: So you went through a figurative, narrative period where you felt this was a way forward for you, but your present work is much more geometrical and abstract, so when did that transition occur and is there any particular reason why you moved into this present phase?
Skyler Ridewood: I came to see that people who depicted a narrative, always had a hidden agenda. They were trying to give you a message and I found that they did not know what they were talking about on the larger scale and I definitely did not know either and I would say that no one does. That is what moved me towards abstraction - art for art's sake, just because it is a beautiful amazing thing.
AM: So you see figurative pieces as, in a sense, giving a false story?
Skyler Ridewood: Maybe presenting itself as knowing what is right and wrong without actually knowing.
AM: So, for you, art must always express something, but not necessarily of a narrative nature.
Skyler Ridewood: To me I found it rather annoying, for it seemed that art had some answers, especially those narrative pieces, they use all those emotional techniques to draw their viewers in, then they would give quite a closed slant to it, they would have their opinion, and this wasn't the be all and end all of it.
AM: A lot of art today is, of course, political and full of social comment.
Skyler Ridewood: I find that terrible, because I find that both sides of the political coin, the left wing and the right wing have not worked very well, in all cases throughout the world. It is very difficult for someone to say they know the answers, and it seems as if artists do that, which really annoys me.
AM: So you like the purity of form. Which abstract artists do you feel connected with?
Skyler Ridewood: I was drawn to the ideas behind Pollock and Rothko, the whole nihilistic, great nothingness, the chaotic void that really governs our lives. That is why narrative art annoys me, because it almost says that it knows what it is going to do, whereas this is pure chaos and it takes that into account about the world.
AM: So you like this idea of the chaotic void underlying things? Is this linked to ideas from the world of quantum physics?
Skyler Ridewood: It is all about trying to find that base level, that start of creation, that answers the universe.
AM: Because on a quantum level, things are in a state of flux, but on the outside are solid objects, and these solid objects are essentially a fabrication of our way of looking at things but on the underlying level they are much more chaotic. So you like this idea of a chaotic void?
Skyler Ridewood: Yes I like this idea. I am drawn to the old Taoist philosophies, Ying-Yang and nothing being everything. They fit in well with what I have learnt from physics so far, equal and opposite reactions and so on.
AM: You have the idea of expanding the definitions both of painting and sculpture through your work.
Skyler Ridewood: More so, making it apparent that these definitions are arbitrary. We just call a painting a two dimensional surface, because it is kind of flat, though it never really is. Even with Rothko's paintings, people sit there and stare for a while and eventually the thing becomes this almost weird room void inside the painting, and I have never seen a painting that doesn't have a grain or texture. So in terms of physical law it's definitely is not flat.
AM: I have looked at Rothko's up close and you can see the texture. This effect you mention arises from the way they are lit in some exhibitions, and this creates that colour field.
Skyler Ridewood: At the moment I am more drawn to earth artists such as Robert Smithson and David Nash, with their organic forms. I would like to think I my work was taking a similar slant, being about Nature.
AM: Their work is done outside, done in Nature, outside the laboratory of the studio space.
Skyler Ridewood: Their work is really beautiful and amazing, but it has this optimistic slant on it, everything is natural, everything is fine, everything will be great, but it isn't quite natural, or maybe the synthetic stuff is natural too. So what I want with my work is this weird dipole between synthesis and Nature. I don't believe anything really is synthetic. We are natural beings and we are making synthetic things, natural things making natural things, really. I want to break down these arbitrary barriers we have within painting, sculpture, drawing and everything, but also within Nature and synthesis, as artefacts and natural things are one and the same.
AM: Have you any long-term goals for your work?
Skyler Ridewood: I want to make things that astound people, that really blow them away and make them have a sensory orgasm for lack of a better word. I want to make art fun again.
AM: You want people to be able to see in your work what you have put there, without having to have some kind of intellectual understanding of the process that has gone into making it.
Skyler Ridewood: I do. I think that's one of the flaws within contemporary art that it's extremely exclusive, which is rather sad, because the exclusivity is not always down to someone's intelligence, but sometimes down to the life they have lived so far, what background they have. They could have been brought up in a family that never experienced art.
AM: I have noticed just from the first few months of running this gallery space, that people hardly look at things. They glance. When I go to an art gallery I hold everyone up because stand for ages in front of a painting trying to see all the details. But most people take it in with a glance, then move on.
Skyler Ridewood: I want to create something that will grab them and hold them.
AM: It is difficult to do that. Many artists, to do that, like to shock people, so they produce images that are either pornographic, disturbing, or violent - such as the Maria Hindley portrait made with childrens handprints - which people do to shock in order to grab their interest. Would you want to do things like that?
Skyler Ridewood: I think there are much subtler ways. There is a huge corridor opening in contemporary art with interaction. If you get someone to interact with something they are not going to leave it until they have figured it out. You have instantly taken their attention.
AM: So you would like to use the hook of interaction so that when someone approaches one of your works it somehow responds to them, rather than them responding to it. So maybe by changing the lighting, putting the viewer into an active role.
Skyler Ridewood: The viewer is fifty percent of the piece. They have to do the perceiving. It might be an important thing for art's future to make the viewer aware of that, to make them aware that they are bringing a subjective thing to the table, but also not completely. There are some things they are drawn to just because they are humans.