Memories of Geoff Rigden

The first time I met Geoff was when he was a visiting artist when I was on my degree course at Reading University. He brought in a number of small watercolours and gouaches from Cyprus, where he made almost annual visits to work and teach. I remember on the very first occasion of one of these visits, he talked about things being felt out of the side of the eye rather than head on, an obliqueness, "dumbness" was a word he used. He shuffled about a bit and students didn't quite know what to make of him. I hung on his every word and he'd raise an arm to check a work out,  to shut off an unruly passage or simply to draw attention to an area- it was always visual with Geoff. Another time he came in and I had been making abstract collages, He liked these and told me to check out Jack Bush which I was aware of and produced a catalogue from under the table - this made him chuckle and we went out for a boozy lunch, this wiped out the afternoon for the others he was due to see, but he was unfailingly polite and if you tuned in to what he was gesturing to or quietly speaking about , it was illuminating and insightful.
At this time he was showing at Francis Graham Dixon's gallery in Farringdon and I remember seeing a show with some constructions in them; bits of cork, or French beer tops all perfectly and wittily incorporated into tub-like structures - everything was in its place, colour was everything to Geoff and he used colour to integrate all these disparate elements. They were amazing things. I have been endlessly impressed and fascinated by Geoff's work since my first encounter with it. I used to visit his studio once in a while and on a more regular basis when he and other artists went to set up APT. His studio was different though, it had an almost boudoir vibe at times, with rugs and intriguing artefacts or bits of wood in the process of being transformed with an alchemy into something enchanting or gripping. He used a stiletto once in a box construction . Geoff had the Miró touch or a Picasso-like ability to transform and redefine contexts. His paintings became smaller and more concentrated with heavy reworking, adjusting and you could see how emphatic decision making guided his hand and eye.
A couple of years ago I bought 2 drawings from Geoff - one from a series of riffs on a cycladic head which I remembered seeing on an Open studios visit years before. His drawings really show his abilities, the line is wonderful, strident but sensitive and measured.  We had a couple of drinks in the pub at the end of the street and talked about Marquet- how he kept Matisse honest.
My last meeting with Geoff was when he popped into his studio and saw my drawing show in the gallery space at APT. We had a laugh about how much we both enjoyed Montalbano. We discussed the atmosphere of the southern Med , Cyprus especially. He knew I am part Greek and we talked again about the cycladic drawing. Either you get Rigden or you don't. If you don't , you need to think again about your take on Art, because Geoff was bang on the line, the point at which Art gets made. His work bears this out - its watertight , never leaks.