Tim Riddihough

Tim Riddihough is an artist like no other; he’s a builder of worlds, of grandiose totemic structures, fantastical creatures and mysterious motifs.

I was first introduced to his remarkable work earlier this year, by a friend on the local arts scene here in Hastings. I found myself instantly drawn to the wondrous creations of this truly unique, almost mystical-like individual.

I had very much hoped to visit Tim’s house and studio in Pett Level over the summer, but the unfortunate reality of lockdown has put such plans – for the time being at least – on hold.

So it seemed only right to feature this visionary talent here instead, to bring his work to the fore and give it the attention it deserves.

Welcome to the curious life and times of Mr Tim Riddihough… 

You worked as an RAF fighter pilot, as well as flying for the commercial sector for more than thirty years, before deciding to pursue an alternative career in the Arts. What led you to make such a dramatic change, both professionally and personally? Did you have any interest in art prior to your work in aviation?

I was fixated on aeroplanes and being a pilot from an early age, so didn’t really give much thought to art. My life was all about work then, until marriage and three children changed things considerably. I left the rather cloistered confines of the RAF when I was thirty, and that helped broaden my perspective even more. I first began doing art as a hobby and subsequently started to feel very disillusioned with flying, but had to continue for financial reasons. I finally stopped working in the industry at the age of 51, went through a second divorce and moved to Pett Level in 1990. One day someone saw me sketching on the beach and recommended I try the part-time Art Foundation course, at Hastings College. The course was an absolute revelation for me – I found the freedom and open-endedness of visual art so different to the strict procedures and discipline of aviation.

Byron 3 – ceramic by Tim Riddihough

You work in an impressive array of mediums – from sculpture to collage, painting and ceramics – which do you prefer and can you give an insight into your creative process, as an artist?

I don’t really have any preferences as far as mediums are concerned, what I use generally depends on my mood at the time, the availability of materials – even the weather – I like to keep things varied! I don’t really know how my creative process works – nor do I want to! The whole thing is very elusive and fragile…as soon as you try to grasp or understand it, it can disappear. My ideas seem to bubble up from nowhere – the best things seem to happen when I’m distracted, perhaps only half thinking about the job in hand. Sometimes I may do a series of doodles, forget about them, then come across one I like later on and think ‘Yes I’ll try and make that!’. It’s good to make use of the happy accidents, mishaps and mistakes!

Your work is displayed throughout your house and the surrounding grounds, extending far beyond the confines of your on-site studio, thus creating an almost living embodiment of art. Was this an intentional act on your part, or something which naturally evolved over time?

My house and garden have gradually evolved over the last thirty years – I live alone, so have the luxury of being able to make as much mess as I like! Various objects and things seem to have naturally accumulated over time – I don’t tend to get rid of much! I’m also a keen collector of old, discarded odds and ends: tools, rusty window catches, clocks, skulls, mummified animals, broken chairs…sometimes I re-purpose the latter into something new and strange; it’s all about maintaining a sense of happy chaos! I still do some paintings too and often stick them on the walls, changing them from time to time, as I wish.

Methane – mixed media on paper by Tim Riddihough 

I really admire the diversity of your work, as well as your prolific output as an artist. Who or what influences you creatively and do you think your earlier experiences, for example as a pilot, have helped shape your perspective in any way?

I had an interest in aeroplanes, aerodynamics and streamlined shapes, long before I learned to fly. I started building model aeroplanes as a child, which almost certainly relates to what I’m doing now as an artist – perhaps much more so than my experiences as a pilot. After this, the biggest influences that initially opened my mind to art were the tutors at Hastings College, who were excellent and have certainly had an immense impact on my work since. I find many other artists inspiring too – I’m a huge fan of John Piper, Matisse, Picasso, Miro, George Fullard and Kurt Schwitters – to name but a few. I also really like the imagery of the Science Fiction genre: rockets, robots and aliens have all had a marked effect on my creative output as a whole.

You’ve previously opened up your house to the public as part of Coastal Currents’ Open Studios initiative. How do you think this more intimate means of viewing art, compares to that of a conventional gallery setting? Also, will you still be taking part in any Open Studio events this year, given the ongoing health pandemic and associated social distancing restrictions?

I much prefer Open Studio events to exhibiting in conventional galleries, as I get to meet such interesting people and have had many lively conversations about art, life and the world in general as a result! If there are any Open Studio projects happening this year, I would definitely like to take part in them if possible.

How do you hope people will respond to your art overall and does such acknowledgment make a difference to any of your subsequent work?

Of course I hope people will like my art and enjoy what I do creatively. Perhaps my work won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I make a wide variety of things in different styles and media, so there’s a chance of them liking something! Ultimately though if I make things and nobody likes them, it doesn’t matter to me – my only criteria for a piece is that I enjoy making it and I like it when it’s finished!

Yellow Bird by Tim Riddihough

I appreciate it’s probably difficult to select a singular item from your vast body of work over the years, but do you have anything you’ve made which holds a particular significance for you? What are you currently working on and do you have any interesting projects in mind for the future?

If I had to choose a specific favourite it would be The Silkie – a 6ft tall wooden sculpture made from a much loved chair and plywood. I exhibited it at the Easton Rooms Gallery in Rye about 20 years ago, as well as The Brighton Art Fair. I called it The Silkie because after I’d made it, the back end reminded me of a seal and the Silkie was a Scottish mythical character, who could change from being human on land, to a seal in the sea. Generally the piece I like most is the one I’ve been working on last, I try to improvise and not be too sure of where I’m heading!

You can find out more about Tim Riddihough’s work via his Facebook page.

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