Wednesday, 2 November 2011


176.5 x 119.5 cm


This beautiful drawing was short listed for the prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize 2011. It’s a work which demonstrates the richness of drawing as a stand-alone medium, not as a preparation for what is to come. The artist uses charcoal on paper because it permits subtle gradations in tonal value. Also perhaps because of the visceral shock the viewer experiences when faced with the tangible, sculptural blackness of the shadows and the pure white of the paper. Those blank window spaces have been emptied of content. We can neither see through them nor do they reflect back to us. There is a meditative stillness about them which is magical.

The art critic Andrew Brighton remarked at a Tate seminar in 2000 that you could describe art galleries' policy as ‘the history of the rejection of the domestic’, in the mistaken belief that while a work of art is unfathomable and you can interact with it forever,  objects offer nothing but closure. Moreover for understandable reasons women artists tended to focus on what they had access to: settees , balconies, beds etc, while men painted in public spaces. Greenberg – the most influential art critic in the world in the 50s and 60s – inveighed against sissy European painting and its tiny canvasses, and called Chiraco an ‘elementary interior designer’. 

Things have moved on. Anthropological studies in the 1990s see houses and objects as changing us, as well as us changing them. Buildings and their furnishings have ‘agency’.  Drawing Room invites us as voyeurs into the intimate spaces of a private world of opulent splendour. It's been suggested that its ethereal, atmospheric quality references early film noir. But, while this picture is 'unfathomable’, at the same time it's a portrait of a room, and rooms, their fabrics and furnishings, are things with which we are deeply familiar. Richardson is said to work 'in the Dutch tradition of painting imaginary architectural portraits’.

Earlier this year this work was included in Richardson's solo show Interior Castle at Long and Ryle. Interior Castle is the title of a book by the Spanish mystic and reformer St Teresa of Avila. She saw the soul as ‘a castle made of a single diamond ... in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions.’ She invites her followers to explore various rooms as stages in a spiritual journey of prayer and contemplation before reaching the innermost chamber, the place of  transfiguration.

Back to those blank windows. In my study is a small print of Magritte’s L’Empire Des Lumieres (The Empire of Lights) A puffy blue and white sky, but on the ground darkness has fallen on a solitary house in a wood. Two blank lighted windows are reflected in the water. Another enigma. More psychological space.   (Cardiff)

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