“The paintings are pared down to a minimum in line, form and colour. They need to invite you in as a viewer and compel you to linger, wander through them and evoke a private, personal response.”
Richard studied on a general fine art course at Bristol Art College from 86-89. This gave him a solid grounding in painting and printmaking. At this stage printmaking was at the fore. This lead him to undertake a Masters Degree in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art from 89-91 working in intaglio and later in lithography. The nature of lithography also started to draw him back to painting as well. Printmaking involved a process which gave a working structure which then found transposed itself into Richards approach to painting. From the preparation of a painting surface, hand wiping etching plates to hand wiping the paintings themselves. The work involved parring down to the bare essentials while leaving enough for the image to work. Early influences, influences that have stayed with him until present day, are artist such as Cy Twombly, Robert Motherwell, Milton Avery to Vermeer, Turner and Rembrandt. Elements of all have been introduced into his work. With the Rembrandt's it was the backgrounds allowing the paintings to emerge from dark to light. Turners handling of atmosphere which lived in the paintings and the gestural from Twombly and Motherwell.
So where do the paintings come from? More recently the work has been influenced by an artists residency Richard was invited to be involved with in Cill Rialaig in Kerry. Its influence is now becoming more and more prominent in his work and he has returned there every year since. In contrast, the working port in Southwick on the South East coast has proved a newer source of material. Looking at the traces left behind of the everyday, the passage and wear of heavy working days and the attritional power of the coastal weather. Obviously the South Downs have always been a predominant influence around him. His studio is based in Lancing and it takes less than thirty minutes to be out and walking along the South Downs Way.
What makes the landscape draw Richard back? To him it is the way it can morph in to a different state with in minutes. As it follows the coast so closely it can be clear one minute and then capitulate to a weather front that sweeps in from the sea and rapidly change the look and feel of the landscape. Familiar detail can be expunged by a coastal mist, smudged away by a downpour or bleached out by intense low morning or evening sun. It is these transitions from one state to another that the paintings are dealing with, small periods of time, not really a singular moment as such. They are also not meant to be of a particular place, hence the rarity with which they are titled with a geographical name. This is in some way to stop the name already defining a picture in the viewer's mind. He aims for them to evoke a place, perhaps in your memories of somewhere you have been to. To describe a feeling, atmosphere during a passage of time. The viewer is bringing something to the painting as well, the painting draws it out of you only to deliver you back through the layers of light and depth.
The majority of the works start from sketches, photographs or just memories of a walk. All are just reference points to initially put something down on canvas, panel or paper. However before any of this starts the painting surface has to be right. He now primes any surface many times to build and hide canvas weave and produce a substantial surface that will take hold of the marks he makes but allow the free movement of paint when necessary. Looking back this imitates a similar surface that one draws on with lithography stones and plates. The feel beneath brush, pastel or hand has to be right. While some paintings start off from a traditional white surface many are now coloured; perhaps an orange, a deeper mars orange or a raw umber wash. Layers are built up of thin glazes of a usually limited palette. The primed base colours are then allowed to influence the top glazes or are completely obliterated only to be revealed again as layers are then sanded back or drawn through whilst still wet. At some point the painting process inevitably takes over and starts to generate the paintings subsequent direction. Original elements can then be re introduced to the work to give a piece the solid foundation it needs to hold together. Each time a painting is worked on the whole surface is involved with some areas getting more significant changes and others simply refined.
As to knowing when a painting is finished, this is always a tricky one. For Richard the painting has to work as a painting in its own right. If he is happy to come into the studio and look at a work then he knows something is going right. If a painting doesn't make him want to look at every aspect of it then there is some way to go.
Please find below small video footage about the artist.
SOLÈNE wants the viewer to explore and understand the world of each artist by entering their studio life, their daily exploration or even a show, a project that has marked them but more generally SOLÈNE’s vision is for the viewers to see what inspire them, their artistic process and what they wish to share and transmit.
Richard, you did a MA in print making at the Royal College of Art, why did you decide to pursue paintings rather than printmaking?
Printmaking during both my BA and MA degrees was the best way I could find to put down the ideas in my work. Painting wasn’t taught well enough to give me the tools I needed to make any successful work in my opinion. Are you meant to be able to just paint?! Printmaking gives you a very good grounding in preparation and planning to achieve any results even at the most basic of levels. There are underlying techniques associated with each print discipline which you need to learn and follow for the processes to work. This makes it sound like a very dry process but once you have these techniques at your fingertips you can then start pushing, breaking them back down and adapting them for your own needs.
Are there any printmaking rules or lessons you learnt that you apply to your painting technique?
I suppose I adapted this approach to painting. Preparation was a key point to moving the paintings forward. The prints I made weren’t straight forward as they mixed techniques and added elements of painting to them. Etchings were printed onto paper covered in a layer of oil pastel instead of just bare paper. Lithographs drawn with washing up liquid bottles filled with Touche and then printed over etchings or thin tissue papers and usually not editioned. I’m sure this leads to adapting the way paint was put onto canvas so it produced the marks I wanted.
The technique of hand wiping etching plates has been adapted to hand wiping painted surfaces as a way of removing paint, moving paint around, building up surfaces of fine glazes and establishing marks and colours. Printmaking relied on “touch and feel” and I realized it was also key in making a painting.
Your painting could be classed as atmospheric contemporary landscape, are you particularly inspired by your own life and walks in the Sussex Downs where you currently live?
Yes, the South Downs have been a major influence on my work. After all they have been the main back drop to my life for the last 25 years. They dominate the South coast. You drive through them to leave the area and back through them to return. They stop weather fronts or bring fronts in. Their grand scheme stays the same but their minutiae constantly transforms and catches you unaware.
Do you work from your own memory of your walk or from photography you take?
Just walking in the South Downs gives you a constant feed of information that you experience as well as see. It's the ‘experience’ part that adds the extra dimension that I want in my work. I do take lots of photos for reference and use the ‘experience’ and the memory of a walk to feed into a painting. They provide me with a starting point for a painting which is then allowed to lead somewhere itself while always being grounded within its original source of reference.
In 2014, you were granted a residency in Kerry, Ireland, did that bring anything to your paintings and if so, would you like to tell us more?
The residency in Kerry did make a change, perhaps in me more than in the work directly. Obviously, this change would find its way back into the work, that’s unavoidable. It was a chance to go somewhere where you could choose to be alone or interact with the other artists on the residency. The live/work studio also limited the size of work I could make and really concentrated what they were about. The studio was right on the coast which opened up all the light, atmosphere and weather the Atlantic could throw at you, and it did. That area of Kerry is sparsely populated but with tight communities which was very different coming from Brighton at the time.
Have you got a dream place you wish to explore, live, perhaps take a residency and eventually paint it?
Actually, whilst in Kerry, I found it a very comforting place and one that I felt very much at home with. Places such as Ballinskelligs beach are now my go to places to recharge. So much so I’ve been back there every year since and it continues to have influences on the work. There were even thoughts of moving there or having some sort of studio set up but that’s for another day soon I hope. It is somewhere I will go back and spend time painting.