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Mandy Ridley’s way into and around art-making is far from linear. She expresses her artistic interests as drawn from ‘sharing a world view with others, and an interest in the connective cultural threads between people’. And when her art-making is the subject, a sense of her real life events, responsibilities and the intricacy of the connections—the many and varied elements that make up a life in the Brisbane suburbs—come into play. Ridley’s professional life and artistry extend from her personal and familial situation—all of which inform the work in a spider web of intricacy, a search for cultural intimacy driving her process and exploration.
She suggested that in her career to date (which includes public art-making and creative partnerships with Urban Art Projects, Metro Arts, architects BVN and Hassell) she generally works alone but gravitates to others, quickly establishing rapport: ‘I lodge like a barnacle’. Stylistic consistency is less important to her than innovation.
Squinch (uno), shown at Level (an artist run initiative offering residencies located in Brisbane’s Newstead), traces an international journey that Ridley undertook with Australia Council backing in 2009. While the funding was specifically focused on Ridley’s research into Islamic Art, including a conference in Cordova, Spain, the trip extended into a one-hundred and seven day journey.
Ridley developed the work shown in the exhibition during a four months residency at Level. She reflected on her travels, the art and other cultural phenomena, and out of a process of daily drawing, created a ‘first response’ to the stimulus of a trip during which she traversed Spain, Paris and other European centres.
Squinch is an architectural term describing ‘a small arch or vault, placed diagonally across the corner of a square or rectangular room and serving as an intermediary between this and a round superstructure. The transition between square or rectangular rooms and round domes was one of the chief problems of Islamic architecture’,¹ and Ridley’s work is about connections.
In Squinch (uno) Ridley combined a series of appropriated objects, patterns and imagery. These were essentially three groups of drawings, with images combined and rendered in polyethylene. Sign-writer’s vinyl was attached to the reverse of the polyethylene images, which were hand-cut and pinned to the wall. The material curved slightly and sat out from the wall, allowing the orange vinyl on the reverse of the images to shed a warm aura of colour. Interestingly the curve in the vinyl gave the long narrow forms a body-like physicality.
Imagery included a cartoon-character (taken from graffiti in Granada), patterning from Islamic architecture, detailing of columns and minarets, textiles and objects from across the three faith traditions, and her fabricated Squinchberry tree. This patterned element with green eyes was borrowed from a bowl Ridley drew in a museum in Granada. The relative scale of each of the appropriated elements is changed—as is context, material and media—with various elements integrated to shape the architectural form of the minaret.
Ridley’s minarets and other elements look hand-drawn but these pen and ink marks are printed, utilising both current technology and materials. Framed drawings in a more traditional sense were also included in the show, and these also replicate patterns and connections seen, drawn and photographed.
Ridley’s travels continue—in 2011 to India and Malaysia—and Squinch was dubbed (Uno) with the idea that her responses will be multiple.
Public art has been the core of Ridley’s practice, with studio work less constant, but here she has laid down her process for a gallery audience. Her work is performative, also informed by her interest in social media, an active presence on Facebook and utilisation of the contact and connections it offers, an international version of talking around ‘the village pump’. Squinch (uno) makes Ridley’s experimental processes visible—the fluidity of the imagery and ideas become the work.
1. Squinch (uno) by Mandy Ridley, via Facebook, Many Ridley's Albums