Artist Michaela Ridgway unveils her new work Now in a new show in Brighton.

Artist Michaela Ridgway
Artist Michaela Ridgway

Now is a 1m x 10m experimental life drawing, acrylic paint on cartridge paper, on show at Gallery 40 on the corner of Gloucester Road and Foundry Street from August 20-31.

After spending a number of years devoted to the practice of life drawing, Michaela turned to painting. She paints figures, landscapes and figures in landscapes that hover somewhere between the abstract and the real, she explains.

Colour is a particular preoccupation of her work.

Michaela describes her use of colour as a function of what’s happening, in the moment, on the palette. If asked to mix a flesh tone or a cactus green “I’d probably get there,” she says, “but I wouldn’t find it all that interesting.”

Instead, as she mixes she allows surprises to take place on the palette. “I use a lot of paint and will cover quite a large table with cellophane for a palette.

“This allows me to develop a large range of colours over time. I’ll work on two or three paintings at once.

“I like to see how the colour relationships develop and differ over the three canvases.”

Michaela’s Brighton show will feature 12 new paintings – plus Now, in which she sees drawing as time travel.

“I have been a regular participant at the artist Jane Fordham’s life drawing sessions at the Fabrica art gallery in Brighton for some years now. Jane’s sessions take place in batches of three Tuesdays. Experimentation is encouraged.

“I started this piece with the simple thought that I wanted to escape the space restrictions imposed by using an easel.

“I rolled out as much of the length of paper as I could on the floor and began. Very soon, the work became about exploring scale, pace, vitality and movement through space and time.
“I walked around the drawing, viewing it from above, making marks while standing on top of it, sometimes with my eyes closed, swapping between my right and left hand, drawing sometimes with a stick instead of a paintbrush.

“I would roll it up to obscure earlier parts of the drawing, then reveal them again. I would work over the top of some parts, create transitions to integrate earlier parts and later parts.
“Parts of it would be revisited and reworked: I might, for example, superimpose a present mo-ment drawing on top of a past one, transforming both the present and the past drawing. I did this for each of the Tuesday sessions over the course of about three months.

“The process of making a drawing or painting is as important to me as the outcome – that is, the painting or drawing itself. As I work, my mind empties. The verbal thinking process fades out. Aesthetic decisions are still being made – brush strokes, colour decisions, erasures, superimpositions, deciding to stop, deciding to start – but they occur at a non-verbal, subterranean level of consciousness.

“There is a constant play between seeing (in the case of this drawing, seeing the life model, the room, the props, the paper) and being. As I begin to draw and paint, I experience a sense of being perfectly situated in the ‘now’ moment. This is sometimes called ‘flow’. I think of it as the ‘continuous now’.

“As I work in this ‘now,’ I notice that it is cradled between the moment before and the next moment. The decisions I make ‘now’ respond to the moment before and the moment after. I think of this piece, which I have called Now - as a physical manifestation of the ‘continuous now.’ To make it, I had to move, with my drawing, forwards and backwards through physical space and, in some unfathomable way, forwards and backwards through time. It is a kind of time travel! “

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