backs to the wall
He demands that his paintings are erased at the end of each exhibition. It’s part of what makes RICHARD WRIGHT one of Scotland’s best artists, writes Graham Domke.
ichard Wright paints directly onto the wall. With great
skill and effort he creates exquisite artworks that last
only as long as the run of the exhibition. Then the works simply get painted over. It‘s reminiscent of Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner: ‘All those moments will be lost in time. like tears in rain.” In the case of Wright’s work. the short life span of the wall drawings intensifies the experience. This is the punishment/reward negotiation with his painting process — they become more memorable and therefore not entirely erased. They exist as traces for those who saw them. They become legend. As a result. Wright is capable of making some of the most ‘die young stay pretty’ artworks you will ever see.
Wright is installing new wall drawings and a selection of
works on paper for his biggest UK exhibition to date at Dundee Contemporary Arts. He is 43 and what might otherwise have been a mid—career survey is by necessity an exhibition of new work. because of the nature of his approach. the madness in his method.
DCA curator Katrina Brown acknowledges his ‘extraordinary practice — one that needs time and space. both in the making and the viewing’. His works. she argues. give the impression that they are ‘coalescing in the space between the permanent fabric of the building and Wright‘s ever-evolving repertoire of imagery. forms. symbols and visual devices.‘
Bom in London but raised and based in Glasgow. Wright is one of the most respected artists of his generation. A graduate of both Edinburgh (BA) and Glasgow (MFA) he has held
exhibitions at galleries including the Kunstverein Dusseldorf
and Tate Liverpool. as well as at Edinburgh's lnvcrlcith House. He has found a balance between inclusion in major group shows at MoMA New York. Tate Britain and the Scottish
14 THE LIST 15—29 Apr 2004
National Gallery of Modern Art. and more personal shows at Glasgow‘s Ready Steady Made. HQ in Cologne and a forthcoming show in at Berlin apartment called 'What is my apartment when I am not there.‘
Wright emerged from the artist-led scene of Transmission in Glasgow and City Racing in London. He was inspired when he travelled to Los Angeles. ‘the golden land of opportunity and adventure. The chance to begin again~ to study (and subsequently teach) at Cal Arts. In California. Wright encountered American art in its own context. He also remembers the feeling of being opened up by driving along freeways and through the desert. The journey is a crucial aspect of his work.
He has chosen the path of an itinerant painter in the same way as a storyteller or craftsman would have travelled from place to place in the middle ages. And it is this sense of journeying that gives Wright‘s temporary installations a particular integrity: a quality that could even be described as an aura. ‘I am not against painting on canvas per se.‘ he says. ‘The problem is the ease with which painting is absorbed into the market. which of course facilitates its easy consumption. There are too many unnecessary objects.‘ His temporary approach is his solution to this problem.
This transient quality adds another. equally important dimension to Wright’s work: it demands an audience to witness it. Unlike art. which will continue to exist after an exhibition is finished. his drawings will never be moved into a store. never put into a container and shipped to a new exhibition venue or a private collection. The space in which they are shown becomes hugely implicated in the work itself.
For Katrina Brown. this is one of the most important
'11'IE SPACE BETWEEN WORKS IS OFTEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE WORKS THEMSELVES'