An Interview with Richie Culver at his Studio in Kensal Rise, London
British artist Richie Culver and I first met at his Bayswater studio, with the gentle thud of techno music reminding me that he’d recently returned from a tough couple of years in Berlin. A few years later, we're still in West London, but at his Kensal Rise space. I was met at the door by a soft-spoken Yorkshireman with arms decorated with the names of past lovers and dead friends. As we looked at his work, the cutting-edge contemporary artist discussed the work of contemporaries such as Charming Baker, Danny Fox and Edie Peake as well as galleries like Sadie Coles, London and Peres Projects, Berlin.
In terms of his influences, Culver has always been interested in Brutalism, forms of combat and anarchic undertones like the K Foundation. High profile collectors of his work include Harry Blain of BlainSouthern Gallery as well as Tate Modern and the Soho House Group. Despite mostly wearing black, Culver goes beyond his passion for contemporary art, and also experiments with fashion - even launching a Topshop collaboration a few years back. The artist combines car boot sale finds and Savile Row tailoring with cutting-edge designers like Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy to construct a modern aesthetic.
As a teenager in Hull, Culver was first influenced by photographers like Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, whose careful observations of contemporary culture he reflects. After returning from Berlin, extracts from his unfinished, poetic book Berlin Chronicles were adapted into works of art. Although Culver’s also known for his photography and writings, his paintings since then have become increasingly abstract, bringing together the different mediums that he works within with topical cultural references from icons to brands. Look out for his group exhibition The Politics of Pink? opening at The Dot Project on April 12th. Follow @richieculver.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?
No, not really. Everything just happened really naturally.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
Rebecca, my girlfriend, breast-feeding Levy - my eight month-year-old son - at any given moment together.
Tell us about the space within which you live and work?
The spot where we live is just our home and a very lovely place to be. My work space is a hard one to describe. Cold at times. Very patriotic perhaps? Unfinished. I’m always saying I’m going to move out of here soon, but never do. It is getting far too small. It has a Last of the Summer Wine vibe. Or Only Fools and Horses. Maybe Emmerdale Farm actually.
Do you have a routine or follow any rituals when you paint?
Not really. I bought a good coffee machine recently. I have ten cups an hour, with no sugars though. I’m back on a winning streak recently. Was on a losing streak all last winter.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I paint auto-biographically. Things that I see or that happens / happened around me. Usually I'm inspired by small town heroes and Gods on a domestic scale - that’s a good title actually! Curtain-twitchers too. My mum is a proper curtain twitcher on our street back home. Nothing goes by our door without my mum's commentary on it. So I guess I’m a curtain-twitching painter in my own way.
If you could work within a past movement, which would it be?
I saw that Sylvester Stallone used to paint in the 80's to chill him out. I’d quite like to paint with him at that time when he was riding the crest of glory with Rocky.
Do you collect anything yourself?
Yes. I collect plastic pigeons, football kits, Princess Diana memorabilia and Bruce Lee posters.
Is there a favourite painting, which inspires you?
I like the work of both, David Ostrowski and Leo Gabis very much.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Kissing and cuddling my son.
Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?
Properly Gil-Scott Heron or Bruce Lee. Yes, Bruce Lee was an artist.
How important is the presence of written text in your work?
It’s important. I can’t paint somethings. So I just write it down.
Has social media had a positive impact on your career?
What do you wish every child were taught?
Politics - how do I vote and why should I vote.
What is your favourite art gallery in London and why?
Post Institute and The Dot Project where my group exhibition The Politics of Pink opens next month.
Do you prefer to work within a community or independently?
Do you often make and receive studio visits? Why?
Recently I’ve had loads of requests and people coming through. It’s nice to let people see the work in person.
What advice would you give an artist following in your steps?
Er .. I feel like I should say .. “ Never give in, no matter what !!”
Do you love what you do? Why?
Yes, I love what I do. It beats working in a super market or in a caravan factory or being on the dole. That’s for sure. Even though at times I take it for granted. I love what I do.