Light Curtain/Drop Sari


View of the Whitworth Art Gallery by night

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Whitworth Art Gallery
Manchester, UK

Whitworth Art Gallery Commission

By night Rideal’s film was projected out of the the twin gallery stairwells and their linking windows illumined by LEDs performing in synchronous colours to the film. By day, within the galleries, Drop Sari was projected onto white saris blown around by a fake fanned breeze.

Both installations were part of the Cotton Global Threads, 11 February – 13 May, 2012.

Specialist lighting by DBN, Manchester.

Light Curtain/Drop Sari
Cotton Global Threads
Textile Manufacturers of India
Front Row Review, BBC Radio 4

Green, Green Glass of Home


Green, Green Glass of Home: Invitation

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Installation and working portrait studio
Victoria & Albert Museum

Fantin-Latour’s painting of nasturtiums (capucines in French) inspired Rideal’s interpretation. The reiterated flowers dance up and down in both works, and the tiered layers of individual green glass vessels can be seen to symbolise the idiosyncrasies of the individual portraits whilst simultaneously alluding to their similarities… like leaves; each is unique.

Rideal’s glass collection is an assortment of twentieth century domestic pieces accrued gradually from chance finds. Imported into the context of the V & A, it could be viewed alongside other collections there, for a single night with a garden view of the Brompton Oratory.

Balancing in precarious piles, the ‘veiled verres verts’ alludes to the transitory and fragile nature of life and how wrapped up in it all we are.

Molly Nesbit discusses Eugène Atget’s Nasturtiums (MOMA, NY) in A new history of photography, edited by Michel Frizot,1994, Könemann.
Bespoke WAWA sofa

Hawthorn Hall of Mirrors


Hawthorn Hall of Mirrors, detail

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Permanent work at Churchill Hospital
Oxford, UK

The Radcliffe/Churchill Trust in Oxford. Sited in the new cancer wing, the imagery on the 2 x 7 metre acid etched and sandblasted mirror produced by Nero Signs (Glass/Designs) Ltd.

At the Churchill, the mirrors simultaneously reflect the outside environment together with the people who use the building. The sandblasted static imagery retains its scale, whilst the ‘audience’ participates by adding their moving reflections, changing scale as they approach and depart in relation to the mirror surface.

Rideal used branches and berries taken from an old hawthorn tree located close to the new cancer centre (at: 454308E – 205690N, etched into the mirror at the base of panel four) and made life size photograms from them. Research suggests that phyto-chemicals found in hawthorn, may reduce the risk of cancer.These images were then scanned making a vinyl mask to create a design that is itself reflective while also echoing the pattern produced by the repeated photograms.

At the base of the mirror is a dedication to Eric Rideal who attended St.Edward’s School, Oxford (1934) and as an RAF Flight Lieutenant was stationed at Little Rissington, his son was born at the Radcliffe (1950).

Cloth Fair


Bart's Gatehouse arch green glow

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Temporary light installation onto the 15th century bell tower of St Bartholomew the Less, and the gatehouse to Bart’s hospital
19th March 2007

From the 12th century Cloth Fair in Smithfield (also known as Bartholomew Fair) was an important market place for merchants selling fabrics, Cloth Fair is still the name of the road adjacent to St. Bartholomew’s hospital. St. Bartholomew the Less is the only hospital parish church in the country; situated just beyond the Henry VIII Gateway. The tower and west wall date from the 15th century. This was the site for Rideal’s photographic projection from the Great Hall. Both Inigo Jones (1573-1652) and William Hogarth (1697-1764) are connected with this site. Jones, the son of a cloth worker, was baptised in the church and Hogarth, who was born in Bartholomew Close, was responsible for the mural paintings on the staircase leading up to the Great Hall.

Managed by Modus Operandi in collaboration with Vital Arts, Bart’s and the London NHS Trust. With thanks to The Vicar and Church Wardens of St.Bartholomew the Less, The Haberdashers’ Company, The City of London, Sugarfree Design and Adi Audiovisual.

Vital Arts

Fall, River, Snow


Fall, River, Snow projected

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Image: J.Shaw

Shown at Compton Verney, UK
29 October – 10 December 2006

Compton Verney premiered Liz Rideal’s film, shot at Niagara, Burleigh Falls and Big Cedar in Canada. Projected onto the Capability Brown landscape at Compton Verney it focused attention on the mesmeric power of scenery and provoked a visual debate between real and filmed nature. Shot on Super 8, this silent film is a conscious meditation on the beauty of the natural world. It tracks the movement of water, snow packed firm on land, a frozen lake, wheeling gulls, camouflaged deer, rainbows, and the snow laden branches of trees. The result is an enigmatic portrayal of a particularly distinctive terrain, which was projected onto the dramatic backdrop of a lake and trees at Compton Verney, illuminating the immediate landscape as it descended into dusk. Fall, River, Snow enabled the gallery to extend its programme beyond the confines of the building. The landscape at Compton Verney acted as a film screen for the projections, but rather than merely providing the physical backdrop for the project, it offered another context for the unfolding drama in Rideal’s films. Rideal’s work revolves around issues of repetition, scale, motion and colour.

Rideal’s photographic contextual work was shown concurrently in the galleries at Compton Verney.

Fall, River, Snow

Liz Rideal has an enduring fascination with the beauty of ephemera, with what she has described as “clarity containing chaos.” She has captured semi-abstract images of falling draperies, oceanic currents, tangled roots and portraits obscured by a gestural veil of hair. Here she pushes the organic ambiguity further by projecting Super-8 film of nature onto the natural environs of Compton Verney. Shot early this year in Canada, the silent film follows cascading water, a circling flock of gulls and a deer threading its way through woodland. Juxtaposed with the actual changing landscape, the sequences take on an eerie, almost luminous aura. Compton Verney, to December 10.
Robert Clark, Guardian Guide, 28 October 2006

Rideal’s silent film, shot in Niagara, Burleigh Falls and Big Cedar, Canada, is a meditation on the power of nature which premieres against the backdrop of Compton Verney’s landscaped gardens.
Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times Magazine, 28 October 2006

The Canadian wilds are transposed to English parkland in the new film projection of nature on to nature.
The Independent, Five Best Exhibitions, 11, 15, 18,21, November, 2 December 2006

Liz Rideal’s lyrical Super8s untame Nature by projecting the Canadian winter onto Warwickshire parkland.
The Independent on Sunday, The Top Fifty, 19 November 2006




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Installation at BBC Broadcasting House

This work focuses on scale, colour and the process of translating imagery into and through different media. The BBC commission illustrates the diversity and depth of this approach. The commission Kerfuffle 2004, curated by Modus Operandi, was a building wrap around the outside of Broadcasting House, London SW1, from May to September 2004. This inkjet on vinyl measured 24 x 17 metres, and the image was derived from a tiny photobooth collage (original scale = 20 x 5 cm).

Modus Operandi

British Academy London

Dancing with Borromini, installation view

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Text by Professor Martin Kemp FBA

Drapery occupies a greater amount of space in European religious paintings and sculptures than any other single feature, with the possible exception of the sky. Yet we take it for granted. Any painter would have known that its role is crucial if the work of art is to exercise its full effect. The nature of the cloth in a painting – coarse or soft, opaque or diaphanous, shiny or rough, colourful or dull, simple or sumptuous, folded or flat, still or moving, concealing or disclosing – carries essential information about the status of the participants, their poses, their motions and more generally about how they perform their devotional and narrative roles according to the principles of decorum.

Drapery occupies a greater amount of space in European religious paintings and sculptures than any other single feature, with the possible exception of the sky. Yet we take it for granted. Any painter would have known that its role is crucial if the work of art is to exercise its full effect. The nature of the cloth in a painting – coarse or soft, opaque or diaphanous, shiny or rough, colourful or dull, simple or sumptuous, folded or flat, still or moving, concealing or disclosing – carries essential information about the status of the participants, their poses, their motions and more generally about how they perform their devotional and narrative roles according to the principles of decorum.

Leonardo da Vinci formulated the kind of rule that all good artists obeyed, without necessarily sharing his classificatory obsessions.

‘If you wish to make woollen cloth, use folds appropriate to that, and should it be silk or fine cloth or rude cloth or linen or voile, differentiate the folds for each type… Some draperies will have soft folds and their sides will not be angular but curved – and this occurs with silks and satins and other thin cloths, like linen and voile and suchlike. Also make some draperies with a few large folds as with coarse cloth, like that seen in felt.’

Of the many types of fabric, sensuously thin veils of muslin and silk (including chiffon and organza) have played especially effective roles. The Mona Lisa is a case in point, where the normal Florentine costume has been overlaid by a symphony of veils within the context of what I have called his ‘optics of uncertainty’. The Virgin is shown by Raphael and others drawing back a diaphanous veil to let us see Christ with privileged clarity. Sometimes His genitals are veiled in such way as not wholly to conceal the most evident testament to His taking on human flesh. Veiled headdresses have adorned saints and sinners alike. ‘Wet look’ diaphanous drapes on female bodies paid titillating homage to the statuary of ancient Rome. Veils also provided a conspicuous way for painters (and even sculptors) to demonstrate their technical virtuosity.

Liz Rideal has undertaken a sustained series of photographic works that centre on the neglected eloquence of cloths, particularly floating silks. The Academy’s Dancing with Borromini, Palazzo Spada (cat) is one of a series, undertaken whilst at the British School at Rome during 2008-2009, in creative dialogue with the extraordinary architecture of Francesco Borromini. His intricate drawings rely upon a fretwork of dynamic geometry that translates in his buildings into spatial fluidity rather than the regular proportionality of Renaissance architecture (with the notable exception of Michelangelo). In Rideal’s own words, she wanted to

‘experience the spaces of Borromini in the city, and to animate them with my drapery, using it to highlight the spatial ambiguities of his architecture, to complete the circle, to stand at the point where the spectator is implied. Borromini’s restrained decoration, unique interpretation of architectural language, and his mathematic logic become the perfect foil for the subtleties of the ephemeral, richly coloured transparent silks, that billow and twist with sublimated sexual energy. The gauze veils and reveals details of his buildings, and tantalisingly implies the human presence, evoking fleeting figures and a variety of emotional states. The chaotic movement of the drapery contrasts with the deliberate grace of Borromini’s details, while the rich colour complements his white spaces.’

She was particularly taken by the architectural illusion at the Palazzo Spada, in which Borromini and the Augustinian mathematician Fra Giovanni Maria Bitonti exploited accelerated perspective as an illusion to extend the corridor and garden to about three times its actual depth. Against the apparent space, Rideal’s silken veil floats, twists and descends in a way that is unpredictably chaotic (but not random), constrained by the parameters of its own material properties in concert with the resistant air. Lying over the ‘vanishing point’, her veil masks the finite termination of the garden. The axial architecture in Rideal’s photograph is tilted and asymmetrical, adding a subtle dimension of visual instability. Her veil, a little out of focus, exists as an intangible and spiritual presence in an architecture whose own mass is illusionary. Only later did she notice an observing cat perched on the cornice in the upper left, more cognisant of real dimensions than optical illusions. Appropriately, Borromini’s patron, Cardinal Bernardino Spada, composed an epigram that reminded all visitors that ‘worldly grandeur is nothing but an illusion’.

The resonances of the photograph with Baroque Rome are legion. We may think of the billowing cloaks and fluttering dresses of airborne saints in illusionistic vaults. Heaven is as full of draperies as here on earth. We may recall the crescendo of animated folds in Bernini’s St Theresa as the angel repeatedly thrusts her golden arrow into the Saint’s ecstatic breast. In the Galleria Borghese, Bernini’s image of naked Truth is comprehensively unveiled by time. We may remember Dante’s definition of allegory as hiding truth behind a cloak (manto). Rideal’s photograph is seductively inviting us to collaborate with old artistry in a new way.

The British Academy

Glass Drapes


Birmingham Glass Drapes 1998

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The Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre
Birmingham, UK

A four-story etched glazed wall-cum-artwork measuring 15 x 10 metres. This part of the new building was given a special mention in the Royal Institution of British Architects Award 2002, the second part of this commission, in 2005 is Light Column, that hangs in the stairwell of the building. In Glass Drapes, ground glass and pigment were photo silk-screened onto the two metre squares of plate glass. The enlarged screened photograph was made permanent by the application of intense heat.

The allusion to draped cloth refers to the background fabrics originally seen in painted portraits. This convention became a familiar sight in photographic studios, and is retained in the photo-booth. The basic logic and imagery for these artworks is derived from the repetition of a strip of four photographs taken in such a booth and measuring 20 x 4 cm. The pattern reproduced on these glassworks reiterates drapery folds. Light and curtains combine as signifiers of theatrical atmosphere. Both the outer glass wall and inner hanging glass column reflect and shadow each other, an extension of audience and stage echoed in endlessly choreographed repetitions.

Rome installations


Drappeggio in Ercolano projected at the BSR

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Drappeggio in Ercolano and Dancing with Borromini

Stills from location projections in Rome, 2008-09

In her film, Drappeggio in Ercolano, Rideal collates footage of washing hung out to dry from balconies seen from the road of the Mercato di Pugliano, Ercolano, where vendors deal exclusively in recycled clothing and furs. Her focus is on the material of fabric; the everyday draperies of sheets, curtains and table cloths, drying in the typical Neapolitan fashion of seried ranks. The relentless and time immemorial task of washing and drying is emphasized when the film was projected onto the surface of Rome’s ancient aqueduct walls.

The film was shown in Rome organised by curator Fabio Campagna: The Aurelian wall in Via D.Fontana, Rome. 21 December 2008 ESC ATELIER OCCUPATO, via dei Reti 15, Rome. 23 December 2008 Rialto, Santambrogio, Rome. 31st of January 2009

Further projections at: The British School at Rome, Cortile. 12 December 2008 and Façade. 17 January 2009 Palazzo Falconieri. Via dei Farnesi. 22 January 2009

The images of confessionals were taken in Roman churches. Printed to a scale of 80x35cms, they mimic the 20x5cm format of the individual photobooth strip, and appear here as if collaged together. The confessionals masquerade as photobooths but instead of producing images they are themselves the subject of the photographs, their visitors are spiritual rather than visual, although as both types of visitor deal in the analysis of the self, there are synchronicities.

Drappeggio in Ercolano Projected

Light Column


Light Column

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Permanent hanging sculpture at the Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre
Birmingham, UK

Recalling Brancusi’s Endless Column, Light Column (11 metres), functions as a visual glass conduit between the architectural levels of the theatre building. The outer wall Glass Drapes (14×8 metres) reflects and echoes the column, an independent yet connected work in translucent repetitious form.

In Light Column, the original rectangular format of the photo-booth image was used for the interconnecting glass boxes; sixteen of these were created in response to this rhythm of 4 x 4. These boxes in turn have four sides, one side is made up of sixteen parts, and eight of these are mirrors.

The strict sequencing and fixed ‘cast’ of components evokes the precision of repeated performances over time, with mirrors as ‘actors’ adding sparkle and individuality.

As patrons ascend and descend the staircase, so they revolve around the spiralling glass structure. As day changes to night, and the theatre expands and contracts with visitors, so the reflected patterns and shadows will also change, continuously activating the space.

Light Coloumn, Glass Drapes – by Liz Rideal
Modus Operandi

Lyon Town Hall



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Original photobooth collage

Nageant vers Noël (Swimming towards Christmas), Lyon Town Hall, France. December 2001
Projection: 24 x 48m onto the C17th building, commissioned by Sculpture Urbaine

Backbone Pelt


Vancouver 1

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Vancouver Art Gallery Public Art Project
Curated by Judith Mastai

This group portrait was conceived by British artist Liz Rideal, and executed at the Vancouver Art Gallery in June 1991, with assistance from seniors from the Japanese, Canadian and Jewish communities and the Senior Storytellers Group.VAG Public Programmes thanks Jernny Shaw fro her assistance, and the City of Vancouver Seabord Advertising for their support of the project.

Members of the groups inked their palms and digits making prints. Some of the Japanese participants commented that the last time they had done this (giving identity thumb prints) was after Pearl Harbour during WWII, when they were exiled to camps in the Slocan Valley, British Columbia. I enlarged the prints and combined them to make a large ink drawing (2x5m, Collection VAG). This was then reduced and made into a poster that was displayed in bus shelters across the city during the summer months.