Jonathan Riggall - Artist Spotlight

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Jonathan Riggall - Artist Spotlight

Jonathan has been painting since he was a kid. Even though he was not formally trained in it, he did not stop exploring art. As a quiet person, Jonathan uses his canvas to convey a sense of tranquility, putting his audience into calm retrospection.

When one looks at Jonathan’s work, one will feel the subtle movements on the canvases. These works do not shout for attention but subconsciously engage viewers with their dynamic paints. Read on to find out Jonathan’s creative approach and his take on artistic introversion. 

 Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. What was your background and how did you get started with drawings?

I started drawing and painting as a kid, like most people, and I never stopped. When deciding what to study, art seemed risky to 18-year-old me, and I took Politics! I don’t regret that, but as soon as I was done studying I immediately started exploring art again.

At that point, I didn’t know what my painting was going to look like, I only knew the feeling I was aiming for. I started investigating how I could express myself and immersed myself in the work of other artists. I’ve been doing this for the last 20 years.

 Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. You have two main mediums - acrylic on canvas and pen on paper; how do you interpret these two mediums and how does that manifest in your work?

I’ve always loved painting. I adore mixing colours and working with brushes, even while my work is very flat and controlled. With paint, I feel I can do exactly what I want, at the correct scale, to create the impression I am looking for. While my work is usually just a couple of colours or a gradient of one, I spend a lot of time testing and experimenting. I like my colours to be subtle and complex (I would find no joy in using a colour I hadn’t carefully mixed myself). To me, painting is “the thing”.

Working as I do requires a lot of planning, so I’ve always done calculations and preparation on paper. Ink drawings came about during the pandemic lockdown: my studio was further away than I was allowed to travel in Barcelona, and I was stuck at home with no paint. 

But I did have some nice paper and pens, so while I couldn’t paint, I did some drawings. Unlike painting, where I strive never to make an error, but it’s correctable if I do, with ink drawings, every mark has to be right, or the whole thing is ruined. This was a new experience for me! And while I started out thinking I was making scale drawings of future paintings, I unexpectedly liked the drawings a lot in themselves.

Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. Most of your works are minimalistic and share commonalities, such as lines and 3D geometries. Why do you particularly fancy these types of representations?

I was attracted to minimalism because while developing my work, I found myself removing things. Removing figurative objects, shade, and curves over time. I think minimalism was probably a natural conclusion of this, though I can’t claim it was by design. Now it’s ingrained in how I think about painting - creating quiet, gentle, and peaceful work from a minimum of ingredients.

The lines I do currently came out of an interest in calming the relationship between colours and shapes. Using separated lines to create a form adds space, and lowers intensity. Sometimes there’s a suggestion of depth, but I’m not really trying to create a 3D object hanging on a canvas.

What interests me about abstract art is communicating something just through form and colour, removing the mind’s ability to hang onto something, like “that’s a tree”. It’s a bit mysterious. I enjoy looking at art that sparks an emotion in me, but I can’t really explain it to myself in words.

Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. We can see that you use different techniques in your work to show contrast, for example, through colours, density, directions and forms. Do you think this is a deliberate motive from your side?

I like my works to have some movement in them. I tend to do this through a form or by gradients of colour. I generally feel doing both at the same time would be too much, so whether I use many shades in a painting really depends on the form I’ve chosen.

Onada III, for example, would be totally static if it were just two colours, but by using a modulating reds, it gives the painting movement. Verd/Beix, on the other hand, has movement implicit in the lines themselves, so I used just two colours.

 Onada III (left) & Verd Beix (right)


Q. It is interesting to see an artist trying to find restrictions instead of liberation in what one does. Why do you value such limitations?

For me, creating limitations seems to be part of making a place where I can be creative.

As a child, my parents encouraged me to be musical, and I played the cello for many years. I have a feeling that being somewhat classically trained shaped my creativity. A composer will tell you what notes to play, the tempo, and even how to play them, and yet even with all this instruction, a musician can make a piece of music their own. Perhaps I need this type of constriction, even if it’s artificial, in order for my creativity to kick in.

Also, as I said earlier, I think there’s something attractive in seeing how much you can achieve with only a few ingredients.

Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. Could you give an example of how the “set of rules” in your paintings appeared organically?

It was just a case of removing things. I started out painting figuratively and just kept taking things away until something clicked in me. First, I started painting figuratively in a kind of stylized way, then I removed objects and just had figures and shapes, next the figures went away, and I was just left with shape and colour. I was looking for a certain feeling, and while experimenting with styles, the moment I got to “straight lines, flat colour”, everything opened up for me.

Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. Could you share with us your process of creating each artwork?

Sometimes I start with the form in mind, and other times a colour. Either way, the first work I do is calculating the form that fits the colour. Once I have that, I at least do a part-scale drawing to check it works. Next, I do some colour tests on paper, then mix more of the ones I choose.

At this point, depending on the painting, I will make some tools. For example, large paper rulers with the necessary spacing marked out, that I can attach to the canvas while I mark out the shape, or collections of angled rulers so I can easily make repeated lines at specific angles. And so on.

From here, I paint the background colour, then use my tools to mark out the form I want, and finally paint the lines, using very fine, delicate tape to achieve consistent edges.

Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. Are some of your personalities or nature reflected in your artworks? Please tell us more.

I’m usually a pretty relaxed and peaceful person, and I think my work reflects that too. It’s also quiet, and I’m certainly a quiet person.

While I can be quiet, I will talk to you if you want to talk to me! Hopefully, that’s true of my paintings as well.

 Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. How would you like your work to be interpreted by your audience? Do you intentionally craft it or let it grow organically?

My intention is to create works that are peaceful; that open up a little space and time for quiet reflection and calm. I want to create work that does not demand attention but is engaging if you choose to look.

I wouldn’t want to tell people what to think. I would like to transmit this calm feeling with my work, but I cannot dictate how an audience will receive it. It may be that a person feels differently about my work than I do, but neither of us would be wrong.

Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. Have you also tried other artistic mediums along the way? Or any possible attempt in the future? Could you share more with us?

I settled on acrylic paint after a lot of experimenting with other mediums. I do like acrylics a lot, but I can see myself using oils again at some point, as there’s a really different feeling with oil paint. I feel pretty much dedicated to paint-on-canvas as a general medium, there are endless possibilities with it.

Jonathan Riggall - Return on Art


Q. How would you describe your work in three words?

I was tempted to answer “I would not”, but I can say “quiet, gentle, peaceful”

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