– Spring/Summer 2003

De la musique avant toute chose

Ina Blom

Richard Wright, Untitled, gouache on wall, Talbot Rice Centre, Edinburgh, 2000. Courtesy the artist.

Richard Wright, Untitled, gouache on wall, Talbot Rice Centre, Edinburgh, 2000. Courtesy the artist.

There are many apologies for the work of Richard Wright. Too many, perhaps. His work might read like a compendium of the strategies that have supported the notions of newly radical painting for the last decade, a textbook compilation of the pleas for relevance that protect the medium of painting from the threats of formalism or obsolescence (or both).

As a painter, he escapes the obvious limitations of canvas formats by working in the larger space, directly on walls. Yet, as a wall-painter, he manages to escape as well - to escape the expectations of decorative or topical permanence by allowing his painstaking handiwork to be painted over as soon as an exhibition period has come to an end. Working with situations rather than with objects, he seems to whirl up a lot yet leaves nothing behind. Except, perhaps, the memory of a trace, a touch, or a flourish that, for a short moment, served to highlight the essentially circumstantial character of a place marked by paint, in fact of any place marked by paint.

An aficionado of the surprising angle, the forgotten corner, the hidden structure, Richard Wright is adept at using painterly means to displace the meaning and orientation not only of image-spaces in the more restricted sense, but of the actual three-dimensional rooms and buildings in which he works, orchestrating ever-new site-specific encounters between architecture and audience. Reproductions will never do his work justice: you simply have to be there. Neither figurative nor exactly abstract, what is painted on those walls most closely evoke notions of ornament or decoration, but decoration gone AWOL. The works fragment space and promote a sense of spatial virtuality

  1. Alex Farquharson, 'Back to the Wall', frieze, April 2001

  2. Robert Pattison, The Triumph of Vulgarity: Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987

  3. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Ruffhouse Records/Columbia, 1998

  4. T.J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea. Episodes from a History of Modernism, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999

  5. Alois Riegl, Problems of Style: Foundations for a History of Ornament, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993; and Margaret Iversen, Alois Riegl, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993

  6. Jan Verwoert, 'Jump Cut Cities', Afterall, Issue 6, 2002

  7. Black Flag, 'Bastard in Love', from the album Loose Nut, SST Records, 1985