“Remember that feeling as a child of extreme happiness? When your chest would get tight and warm with excite-ment?” Lynne Riding asks, nodding to a canvas hanging on the wall. The abstract piece is grounded in soothing tones of white, which set the stage for a large orange shape that seems to breathe and take on a life of its own. Looking into the glowing orb, I remember exactly.
Riding draws from the palettes and mementos of everyday life, pulling elements from her immediate environment to examine “subtle gestures infused with meaning,” she says. Her canvases create an atmosphere of sorts, and though her lines only allude to a meaning, she excels at inspiring viewers to reconsider what is real and what is perceived in the world around them. By layering various paint hues, then sanding them away and reapplying, she achieves an image that is no longer static. Corrigan Gallery owner Lese Corrigan, who has represented Riding for several years, equates standing amidst the artist’s canvases to standing in “white noise—a stunning, peaceful experience.”
Riding begins any series of work with a gathering process, collecting elements from the places she has been in stacks of leather journals. Each page is a gem unto itself, with field notes, swatches of color, and perhaps a glued-on cottonwood switch or postcard. Inspired from a visit to her native Wales, one such page is filled with brushstrokes of deep green and, somehow, a hint of mist.
Though trained in the tradition of the great masters, Riding has become less concerned over the years with depicting the obvious. As her realist figures gave way to more abstracted versions of her subjects, she began to encourage her audience to pay attention to what happens beyond what is apparent. And in fact, as you take in her work, traces of realism and the recognizable subtly emerge, playing off otherwise undefined spaces of color, shape, and line to produce a sense of the familiar.
An upcoming exhibit at the Art Institute of Charleston—where Riding is now a professor of studio art after 10 years of teaching at the College of Charleston—follows the fascinating evolution of Riding’s work from the figural to the suggestive. It is a visual timeline of her pursuit to go beyond the evident in “considering the balance between clarity and uncertainty,” she says.
Riding’s thoughtful placement of a line on a canvas transforms physical landscapes into ethereal representations of experience. It’s as if she steps into the collective psyche of what it is to live and feel and wonder and then deftly picks up her brush and lays her mark on that meaning.