Hull has bled into Richie Culver’s paintings. A largely autobiographical artist, dads in bookies, and mums obsessed with Princess Diana permeate his work with a sense of poignancy and humour.
Richie’s output to date has seen him combining figurative and abstract elements into a sketchy and playful series of paintings. Animals and human figures float in a sea of white paint, drawing our eyes to the bright and central colours. “I tend to leave large, white spaces in most works to give the painting an exposed or unfinished feel”, he tells us. “It gives the gestures space to breathe, the end product becomes like a poster almost”.
He creates posters or banners showcasing what’s often, slightly stereotypically, seen as “Northern life”. Richie pokes fun at our political system, and his exhibitions titles brilliantly emphasise this: No one knows me like Dawn from the jobcentre, Ragga night at the community centre, and C’est sombre vers le Nord, which roughly translates as “It’s grim up North”.
Pop culture references pop up repeatedly, in a way that can feel slightly alien when considered alongside much of the contemporary art world. When he pairs Elvis with the words “Bad Vibes”, we cannot help but chuckle. Alongside his work, he also displays strange and abstract sculpture. “There is usually a level of absurdity to the sculptures, which blends well with the naivety of my paintings”, Richie explains.
Light but melancholic, his work is an examination of the way “humour is written into our mediated perception of working-class life,” while still battling with the reality of life inside a bureaucratic system where human sympathy is disregarded. “Dawn” from the jobcentre is a figure of freedom in his recent exhibition, but also a symbol of struggle and her presence touches each of the paintings, influencing how they are then felt by the viewer.
“I’m not even sure what class I am anymore”, Richie tells It’s Nice That. “I think I can relate to them all; that’s probably one of the reasons it comes up so much in my work. It’s far more easy to paint about struggle and despair, now that I’m no longer in those situations myself”.
Humour is an essential element to his work, a crutch so important that he worries if there is actually any left. “I get so deeply involved in a body of work that it becomes really serious to me”, he explains. What Richie captures is that ability to laugh in the face of despair, to keep your chin up and have a great time even when the going gets tough.