qualities of Wright‘s work. ‘Much of the best contemporary work being made now insists on experience in a space with just you and the work.‘ she says. ‘lt’s not virtual. not reproducible. totally unique and extremely exciting. Works can really charge spaces and atmospheres in invigorating ways and for me Wright is one of the best practitioners around — able to make that moment of encounter with an artwork a really intense experience. In the last year or so. Wright has. I feel. really shifted up in scale. almost from rooms to buildings.‘
Wright explains the importance of the rooms on which his paintings are applied when he says. without any self-doubt. that ‘the space between works is often more significant than the works themselves’. Certainly. the only satisfactory way to experience Wright’s work is in the space where he made it.
When I catch up with him at DCA during preparations for the show, he is working on the first of his wall drawings. Looking at Wright working. a l97()s video work by the conceptual artist John Baldessari springs to mind. It’s called ‘I will not make any more boring art‘ and it features footage of Baldesarri repeatedly writing that sentence on a piece of paper. Wright’s method is equally laborious. There he is. squeezed into the smallest of chambers in the back comer of DCA. in which an intense gridded pattern is beginning to envelop the space. Soon. it will extend around the corners and creep into the large main gallery space. No photograph will ever fully capture the dynamics of how Wright‘s wall drawings float in the space and become atmosphere. And that‘s precisely what he wants: he says he aspires to ‘the impossibility of photographing the work‘.
The new drawings and paintings on paper that will also be showing are another revelation. They come from a different
source altogether and simply couldn’t work if they were executed as wall drawings. Ironically. they are somehow looser on the paper than the drawings on the wall. They are wildly imaginative and evoke the spirit of the early 20th century painter Wassily Kandinsky and the obscure occultist paintings of Hilma af Klint. Kandinsky spoke of his works being ‘irrational and mystical‘ and as unstable as a ‘cloud of smoke’ and these new Wrights have exactly that quality. The works on paper have no termination date but they come with another problem in terms of life span (one that’s much more familiar to other artists): they leave the studio to go into private collections. In some senses. just like the wall drawings. they are lost to the artist. The compensatory factor is that they sell, but for Wright this is genuinely of a low ranking importance.
But whether it’s in his wall drawings or his works on paper, he has the skill and the creative imagination to make your jaw drop. What’s more. this imagination is rooted in a profound understanding of the history of art. architecture and design, and his knowledge of contemporary art is encyclopedic. Wright draws inspiration from sources across the centuries (op art. gothic. renaissance. Islamic) while also acknowledging contemporary culture. And it’s all visible in his art.
The nature of his practice is more akin to performance or installation art or the principles of punk and independent music. To call him a painter seems slightly insufficient. Wright argues that ‘what the artist must do today is what has always been required — and that is not to tell lies‘. Heed another person you can trust and take Joe Strummer‘s advice: ‘Know your Wrights.’
Richard Wright is at DCA from Sat 24 Apr to Sun 13 Jun
Richard Wright’s wall drawings, as seen at Kunsthalle Bern, Talbot Rice and lnverleith House in Edinburgh. Wright also makes works on paper (middle)
15-29 Apr 2004 THE LIST 15