London (Garrick) 2008 looks across the street into The Garrick Club, the well-known gentlemen’s club founded in 1831 in Garrick Street, Covent Garden, instituted for the general patronage of drama. The photograph is part of John Riddy’s series Low Relief (2006–8) that explores architectural textures across London. Captured at night it provides a view into a dramatically lit and empty space, typical of Riddy’s use of strong contrasting in his colour photographs. The failing light renders the building, the street and the parked car in a wash of muted grey, which accentuates the ruby red interiors displayed with ornate, gilt-edged paintings, part of the Garrick club collection. A detail of Johan Zoffany’s David Garrick, Hannah Pritchard depicting the sitters performing Shakespeare’s Macbeth can be seen at the bottom left, while another work by the 18th century painter to the right captures Sophia Baddeley, Robert Baddeley, Thomas King in the play The Clandestine Marriage by George Colman and David Garrick. The view that Riddy offers us is tantalizingly brief and raises more questions – specifically about the nature of power and privilege – than it answers.
Consistently working in series, Riddy’s photographs are meditations on the individuality and poetry of certain places. His subject matter is wide-ranging from photographs of Denmark Hill in Camberwell, South London, where his parents used to live, to images of Renaissance or Modernist architecture in France and Italy. Riddy uses urban spaces to reflect on aspects and qualities such as time, atmosphere, spatial illusion and cultural histories. Like John Ruskin (1819–1900), the Victorian art critic to whom Riddy dedicated Praeterita, a series of 28 images, Riddy sees in each empty individual image the traces of human presence, or the evidence that we leave of our lives.
John Riddy was born in Northampton in 1959. He studied Fine Art at Chelsea School of Art (1979–84) and began working with Frith Street Gallery (London) in 1993. He received the London Arts Board Artist’s Award in 1997 and attended the British School at Rome on a Rome Scholarship and Sargent Fellowship in 1998–99. Riddy undertook artist residences at ARCO Madrid and Durham Cathedral in 1999, and won the Pollock Krasner Foundation Award in 2000. In 2003, he was commissioned with artist Rachel Whiteread to produce Room 101 for the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
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