I just thought, I’m going to strip everything back to the mundane. Religion, Sperm, Orgasms, the iPhone.

Installation Shot_Full English_Courtesy of DATEAGLE STUDIO 2019_02
Installation Shot Full English Courtesy of DATEAGLE STUDIO 2019

British artist Richie Culver recently sat down with art historian, writer and curator Hector Campbell to discuss his unique combination of text and image, his recent social-media storm surrounding a particularly polarising painting, and the work he has made for ‘Full English’, a group exhibition at Platform Southwark, curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell of DATEAGLE ART, which is open until Friday 25th October.

Hector Campbell: You’ve said that your early experimentation with photography gave you the confidence needed to start making and exhibiting your paintings. Aside from that self-assurance, what artistic skills learnt through photography have you been able to apply to painting? And do you ever use photographs as initial reference points for your paintings?

Richie Culver: I mainly took what I’d learned about composition and colour from photography through to painting, as I don’t use any form of photographic reference in my paintings.

H.C: By combining both verbal and pictorial elements you have been able to create a unique visual language, expressed through thematic series of works. Would you say you are more often creatively triggered, or influenced, by words or by pictures? And when it comes to starting a new painting, do you find either text or image repeatedly coming first?

Richie Culver_Full English_Courtesy of DATEAGLE STUDIO 2019
Richie Culver Full English Courtesy of DATEAGLE STUDIO 2019

R. C: Text has always come easier to me, and therefore come first, I’m not really sure why. When I started painting works that combined minimal figuration with text it kind of gave me the license to drift either way. I’m actually only going to be painting text works for the rest of this year, and through all of 2020. I decided to strip everything back, and do less, not even touching the canvas with my hands if possible. I want to do every painting in one hit.

H.C: Alongside your more traditional acrylic on canvas paintings you have also worked with sculpture (your ‘Roadman Artifacts’), mixed-media assemblage (incorporating the classic white plastic garden chair, sections of football goal posts and bike locks) as well as, recently, digital printing onto canvas. How do you approach the matching of a medium with an idea or image? And did you feel limited to what you could express solely through painting?

R. C: To be honest I feel totally free and feel that the paintings, cement works and steelworks all work together. So long as it makes sense when I’m dead, I’m good.

H.C: A new series of text works, including ‘Did U Cum Yet’, ‘Let’s Cum Together’ and ‘Shall I Finish Myself Off’, have been dividing social media, receiving both praise and scorn in equal measure, all documented through your re-posting of comment onto your Instagram stories. Had you thought about the reaction these works would invoke? And, as an artist, what is your relationship to social media?

R. C: That was, and is, crazy. As I mentioned before, for the next year at least I’m stripping everything back to basics. I had been trying really hard to be a great painter, a great artist, then I had this moment when I just thought, I’m going to strip everything back to the mundane. Religion, Sperm, Orgasms, the iPhone.
After I posted the ‘ Did U Cum Yet ’ work it was re-posted about 15-20 times. I looked at the followers of some of the selected art Instagram pages that posted it, and the combined follower reach went into the five million area. The comments about the painting covered everything; religion, my family, my sexuality, racist stuff, it being the worst painting of all time, but also love as well. I decided to destroy the work and make a book featuring the social media comments instead (which will be coming out soon).
It felt better to leave it as a conceptual piece, that no longer exists physically.

H.C: Your collaborative ‘ Participant ’ project, which has consisted of a number of performances based around the fictionalised ‘Participant’ sportswear brand, and resulted in t-shirts, tote bags and a publication. Could you tell us a little more about this project? And how does it relate to your own art practice?

R. C: It’s kind of separate to my own practice. I’m sure another conceptual or performative work will make an appearance at some point. I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I always have to be doing something.

H.C: Finally, Full English presents paintings hung from the ceiling, allowing for the viewer to move around the works and inspect both the front and backs of the canvases. As someone who regularly includes messages, stickers or hidden additions to the backs of your paintings, your inclusion in the group exhibition feels natural. Why are you inclined to incorporate these elements into the reverse of your works, especially when they will usually be unseen? And could you tell us a little about the work you’ll be exhibiting in Full English?

R. C: I’ll be painting my work just before the opening, in situ at the gallery, on raw canvas and on both sides. It will be more like a hanging sculpture, and painting it there and then means that it is exactly how it should have been.
I’m going to reference Robbie Williams’ song ‘Angels’, a popular karaoke song in the UK, but also a popular funeral song. The painting will say “I’m Loving Angels Instead” on one side, and “Does This Mean I’m Dead?” on the other.
I will complete it in one hit as it’s hanging in the space, and I’ll be on a ladder having zero contact with the canvas other than with the stick I’ll be using to paint it with…then it will be put it in God’s hands.

‘Full English’, curated by Martin Mayorga and Vanessa Murrell of DATEAGLE ART, also features Shadi Al-Atallah, Lydia Blakeley, Joe Cheetham, Dominic Dispirito, Hetty Douglas, Crystal Fischetti, Jake Grewal and Thomas Langley, and runs at Platform Southwark until Friday, October 25th.

Installation Shot_Full English_Courtesy of DATEAGLE STUDIO 2019
Installation Shot Full English Courtesy of DATEAGLE STUDIO 2019

About Hector Campbell

Hector Campbell is an Art Historian, Writer and Curator based in London @campbell.hector