Artful Blogger

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Chef Richard Nigro returns to the art world with a decided Bacon flavour

Richard Nigro begins an interview about his art by saying: “Just let me put some fish in the fridge before I talk to you.”

Nigro is, of course, one of Ottawa’s more famous chefs, currently running Richard’s Hintonburg Kitchen, after starring for many years at Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.

The Cowboy by Richard Nigro

Nigro is also a visual artist who is about to have his first solo show in 15 years. That will be at Wallack Galleries, on Bank Street, June 6-22. The show is titled Cowboy. Clown. Princess. and will include about 15 photographs, each 40 inches by 40 inches, showing ghost-like children at play. Actually, the images look like staged performances from the Twilight Zone. They are haunting, ethereal, and set the imagination racing.

The children’s play is captured, not with a digital camera, but with a Mamiya 6 X 7 medium-format camera. (For you youngsters, that means a camera that uses film.) A slow shutter speed is employed. The models are asked to move. The result is a blurred image, like in a dream, or like an image in the Francis Bacon paintings Nigro so loves.

“There’s a certain element of chaos or chance” in this kind of technique, Nigro says. That uncertainty gets his adrenaline rushing.

Back in the 1980s, Nigro was a rising star in the Ottawa art world. A 1981 exhibition, Of Intimate Silence, at SAW Gallery riled the police because a man in some photographs “might” be having an erection. Charges were threatened but not laid. SAW posted warning signs. Ah, those were more innocent times.

The Clown by Richard Nigro

Nigro stopped having exhibitions about 15 years ago. “I didn’t stop making work. I stopped exhibiting. Part of it was an error – I thought I would make more money doing what I’m doing now, cooking, rather than making art.”

There was another reason: “An underlying sense that I wasn’t connecting to the great art community; there was a lack of appreciation and criticism of the work I was doing. I found that very, very frustrating.”

Well, Nigro has decided to relaunch his art career at Wallack Gallery.

The works in Cowboy. Clown. Princess. were created between the years 1987 and 1998. Some of those works Nigro hopes to include in an illustrated book to be called Fables for Children After the End of History.

Expect to hear a lot more of Nigro, the artist, in coming months.