An exhibition of drawings by Ray Richardson, in collaboration with Advanced Graphics, London
19th November - 17th December 2005
In 2004 Ray said in an interview with Hanif Kureshi that he could only make work that had something to do with him, and he also talked in that interview about having honesty and respect for himself, who he is and the art that he produces being about that, even though he may be 'swimming against the tide'.
As a graduate of Goldsmiths College in 1987 (at the same time as contemporary Damien Hirst) and St Martins before that, with a huge and international list of solo shows, the BP Portrait Award and two British Council Awards, Ray Richardson's view of the contemporary art scene is surprising and refreshing. Anyone who has visited the Baltic in the last couple of months will know what Ray means when he describees an art world where you need to be able to 'talk the talk' as well as make your work. Ray Richardson's work needs little of the talk, because it contains enough painterly skill and narrative to need no third party for explanation.
In the sense that his work is figuratively immersed in, and a product of, aspects of the urban culture of recent decades, Ray is a true contemporary artist. Born in 1964, Ray uses his life experience growing up, real or imagined, as base material for his art. But rather than delve into the fasionable pit of sulky bitterness we see so much of (compare Tracy Emin's tent, or pots by Grayson Perry), he uses the experiences of boy to manhood in a cherished way, rather enjoying the tracks of his memory. A product of his time, he references childhood games, seventies TV, fantastic old cars like our dads drove, football laddishness and quirky humour; a South London lad who has become a family man withoput bitter memories or an axe to grind. He refreshingly pulls us out of the abyss we see in much contemporary art; departing from many of its bleak sadnesses or savage ironies. It is good to see Ray relishing his life experience and its small human pleasures and possibilities. We should cherish this for how really important it is.
It is the way he draws on the media of our shared times that makes his work so interesting now: Ray is relying on our mutual cutivated knowledge of popular culture to read the shorthand in his pictures. There is no doubt that he has been influenced by cinema and television in the way work is staged. In a sharply edited Guy Ritchie kind of way we see boys being maybe a little bit dodgy, but not wholly dislikeable. Like Hitchcock, who cunningly made us complicit with the misdemeanors of his protagonist, we get drawn into his filmic scenarios; we are standing on the same street looking on like passing pedestrians.
It is all played out like videotape, diferent clips from Ray's imagination, sketched out. There are possibilituies here: what might happen next, what is off screen? It is no surprise that Ray is an admirer of art more likely to be found in the National Gallery than Tate Modern. His images are filled with drama and tension between siginficants, interaction between human players found in the work of Edward Hopper or Carravagio. And like all his heroes, although drawn from life, this is not realism. Film Noir was never realistic. Ray is following on in the tradition of centuries of real Auteurs. He is sticking to his guns, stepping away from the herd, doing what he wants and doing it well.
We still carry a stock of images by Ray Richardson: check our Gallery pages