In his first solo exhibition in a commercial gallery, armed with a background in painting from the Sydney College of the Arts and a celebrated career as a picture book creator, Tohby Riddle presents a series of intimate paintings depicting diverse vignettes from his hometown, Katoomba (and occasionally beyond). The seemingly mundane subject matter of Riddle’s paintings is treated with a masterly understanding of light, colour, and how different times of the day can reveal a wistful or poignant scene of an urban environment worthy of our consideration.
Riddle elevates everyday subjects to the realm of art, imbuing them with a sense of nostalgia and curiosity. The paintings eloquently serve up a calm and evocative glimpse into often-ignored scenes we may pass every day: a telephone box, a shopfront, or a parked car. Mostly devoid of people, the paintings are arresting in their meticulous attention to detail and instil within us a sense of mystery and also familiarity.
Exploring the intersection between photography and painting, Riddle’s work delves into the complex relationship between these two art forms, offering viewers a fresh perspective. While photography may capture a decisive moment, Riddle’s paintings insist we linger longer and take into account the subtle changes in hues or the depth of heavy shadow. The paintings invite us to be voyeurs of scenes permeated with quiet tension, leaving us conjuring an unspoken narrative or fleeting moment just missed.
There is a quietude and stillness in Riddle’s chosen compositions, based on his photographic meanderings around town. In deciding on beginning an artwork, he asks, When should a photo become a painting? The answer may come by way of the quality of light captured or alternatively, an affection for the subject and its inherent poetic quality; a distillation of meaning in an otherwise ordinary subject.
In 2022, Riddle exhibited at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in their Exposé program (recently retitled ‘Altitude Program’), where several of his artworks from the exhibition were purchased for the gallery’s permanent collection. For his contribution to books for young people, Riddle was nominated for the 2022 Hans Christian Andersen Medal. For ten years, Riddle was also the cartoonist for Good Weekend magazine, the weekend magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
About the Artist
Tohby Riddle is a Katoomba-based artist whose studio practice focuses mostly on painting. He has a Bachelor of Visual Art from Sydney College of the Arts and a Bachelor of Science (Architecture) from the University of Sydney. Riddle’s work has featured in multiple group exhibitions and one solo exhibition in 2022. His paintings are held in the collections of The State Library of NSW and The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. He was selected for the Salon Des Refusés (Wynne Prize) 2023.