Artist's History

The art from my Rome period, 1991 to now, is a development of my work from the past growing out of an exploration based on the two mediums of photography and painting. My work is multi-faceted, involving color, light, spirit, and continuity.

My art is abstract, mainly watercolor and gouache on paper. A recent art critic described my color style as "post-traditional abstraction." There is a line in my work, a direction, whether it be "the happy accident", as one of my professors called it, or a conscious thought process. This direction is broad banded as in a wave length; the extended curve of each wave is, technically speaking, photography and painting. The rest of the curve is spiritual, and running through each wave is a line representing continuity.

I graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science in Fine Arts, Photography and Cinema, my final degree work was a series of Midwestern landscapes using modern graphic techniques combined with a late 19th century, hand-coated process. These concentrated on the interaction of man with nature; six pieces were acquired by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in 1977 for their permanent collection.

In 1978 I started using a 5 x 7 inch (12.5 x 17.5 cm) view camera to explore the urban landscape. I named the series Paper Negatives because I used the photographic paper as the negative, i.e., all the whites were black and all the blacks were white. The resulting abstract images defied easy interpretation, being close-up details of urban man-made objects that had interacted with nature.

I moved to a larger view camera in 1980 (11 x 14 inches, 28 x 35.5 cm). The more detailed close-ups from the larger format emphasized the different colors within a black and white image. Intrigued with this, I began exploring color and actually painting on the paper negative itself with oil and watercolor, sometimes working in segments. I used the whole process to previsualize how the final painted image would look and to represent my concept of fragments in the environment. I soon began experimenting with color paper negatives -- researching a process which most experts and commercial photographers held to be unfeasible. I painted on glass, took a color paper negative of this painting and then broke the glass, leaving the photo as the only existing image.

Painting on glass inevitably led to painting on canvas and paper. I went to France in 1986 and created a new series concentrating on color, using watercolor, gouache, dry pastel, oil pastel, and charcoal. This work was geometric and hard-edged. Returning to America I continued to work in this theme in Florida where the bright light influenced the colors even more. After getting some recognition with Museum shows in Tampa, Daytona, and the Cornel Museum in Winter Park, Florida, and being acquired by the Tampa Museum and the Cornel Museum, I decided to return to Europe.

Since coming to Rome in 1991, the Mediterranean light has influenced me strongly, softening the hard-edge quality of my paintings. I began a series of abstract monotypes, using watercolors and gouache on glass, then painting on the image derived from the glass painting, returning to my earlier idea of markings on markings. The colors flowed richer and better in this process, giving harmonious and balanced images.

My latest work explores the techniques of watercolor, gouache, and dry pigments applied directly to paper. Some paintings are larger (120 x 80 cm), and I have returned to the idea of segments, with triptychs and four-panel paintings. Still influenced by the two color systems and the idea of randomness, I continue to explore the on going reaction with color and light.



Wayne Riggs

July 1997