VENUE: Hill Street Design House until August 18.
BY JEAN WEST
Ruaridh ‘Rudog’ Crighton is a man of few words. But the stories he doesn’t articulate verbally usually find a way to dance through to his fingers and make themselves heard on canvas. And a quick glance at his back catalogue suggests he has plenty to say.
His latest show, More Than Meets The Eye at Hill Street Design House, has been a brave and impromptu departure from the satirical street art and pencil scratches that came to roost in the artist post-Glasgow School of Art.
Some say a recent residency in Barcelona, sunnier climes and working outside, sans the lashing wind and rains of his native Scotland, sparked the change in direction. But Crighton, 34, insists this is not so and that an interest in colour and fun dates back to his college days.
And so his earlier endeavours, which were about political agitation and making commentary about the likes of barmy Brexit, its key players and their pathologies, have made way for colour- throbbing vibrancy and blasts of optimism, and a Wesselman-informed pop art that brings on the happy hormones.
Nonetheless, the new images, says the artist, have a more complicated genesis than simply singing out summertime. Based often on Egon Schiele-inspired drawings, the Austrian figurative painter, whose own neurobiology erred on the dark side, it makes sense that he is not going to stray too far from the surreal and disturbing.
If recent world events have become just a little too dark for us, Crighton’s images draw us close on a sort of fun ride that perhaps softens the blow, but don’t shy too far from the story. The intensity and sexualisation of Schiele’s images prevail in the abstract.
“I have always been into painting but somehow got a bit distracted with illustration and ink work,” explains Crighton. “Everyone thinks Barcelona influenced me but it was always my plan to get back to colour and painting. I want my message now to be humorous, but at the same time political, social and psychological.
“This is just the start of a new direction for me – it is experimental. I plan some of the paintings ahead and some are spontaneous.
“I start with a figure and then abstract it, staring at it for hours and adding a colour or pattern. Then I have to paint over and over, changing shades and colour. Even if it looks simple, it has probably been layered several times.”
Will this largely studio-based collection translate to the street art that has given him such a buzz in the past? Crighton says he will be experimenting with spray cans and that he will not be forsaking his more spontaneous expression on the walls and warehouses of the city.
Describing his former creations he says: “My work to date has developed from observing and commentating visually on some of society’s absurdities. In this, Ralph Steadman’s scratchy style of mark-making has long been an influence. I have used quick, gestural, impulsive strokes as an expressive comment on today’s culture as I feel this catches the mood of much of our ‘instant information’ overload and the short attention span it generates.”
His new look he says blearily, has been loaded with many sleepless nights as he quickly built a portfolio for the show.
I take a look at one of the canvases. It’s circus palette is dizzying. Schiele is definitely there and a sense of the grotesque dressed up for a party.
Beneath are the words: “Someone’s Suffering and Degradation is Someone Else’s Power and Glory.”
Timely words indeed!