The artist Richard Wright, whose most significant works in the last ten years have been painted directly onto walls, achieved a progression in his work when he abandoned the objecthood of the canvas. Very often, the paintings consist of meticulously repeated designs which can appear to allude to the seriality of minimalism, or a Warholian, mechanical process. The works are, however, painstakingly painted, by hand, over many weeks. Wright’s engagement is very clearly with the question of painting: “Painting is an enactment or a physical occupation of material, in a way it speaks about time.” [MKG catalogue] But in his work, the importance of the material itself and the physical process occupy a space of equal importance to the context of the work. Wright’s site specific paintings are always executed in response to architecture, and this specificity is very much a part of the content of the finished work. He refers to the “live situation” of painting under these circumstances, in a way that is almost performative, and “the sheer dumbness of trying to transmit something through your own body (..)”. Abandoning conventional canvas as his support was a way of ridding himself of what he perceived as an obstacle between the idea and the execution. The painting “Not titled”2004 presents an arrangement of primary coloured geometric shapes, disposed across the ground like a folded strip of paper so as to emphasise their spatial quality. The ground is painted, trompe-l’oeuil fashion, to resemble wooden panel, or boards. The work recalls paintings on real wood panel by Victor Pasmore, done in the early 1960s when he had pursued the possibilities of abstract reliefs to their aesthetic conclusion. Pasmore returned to painting with a desire to explore its autonomous purity; Wright’s painting rehearses the dilemma of representation of spatial forms, but by using a painted simulacra of wooden panel, radically distances himself from early twentieth century debates revolving around the concept of truth to materials.
“Not titled” 2004 is unusual within Wright’s work in that, although it is on the relatively fragile support of paper, it has a permanence and object quality which distinguishes is from the deliberately ephemeral media of the bulk of his work. Alongside his paintings, Wright produces editions of posters, designed to be pasted to the wall in such a way as to activate a space so that the viewer is forced to experience the gallery in a different way. In a reversal of the practice of key modernist figures from the Cubists to Pop artists, who brought commercial posters off the street and into fine art practice, Wright has also given his posters to professional fly-posters, to be pasted up at random throughout a city, and become part of the urban fabric. Whether pasted up inside, or outside the gallery, the posters engage directly with questions concerning the value of art; not so much in terms of an interpenetration of high and low, as was debated in the first half of the twentieth century, but more in relation to it’s commodity status as it was originally challenged by 1970s conceptualism.
Supernova, British Council, London 2005
- Accession Number P7867
- Dimensions 60.5 X 85 CM
- Media SCREENPRINT
A piece of cloth woven from flax, hemp or cotton fibres. The word has generally come to refer to any piece of firm, loosely woven fabric used to paint on. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground.
Work of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is a tightly stretched piece of canvas, paper or a wooden panel. Painting involves a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's intellectual concerns effecting the content of a work.
A wood, cooper, Masonite, or other hard surface on which to paint. Sometimes it is referred to as a board.
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