Friday, 5 October 2012


LondonsTopdog 56 x 61 cm

This is no ordinary dog. It's one of the Bull Terriers which make a menacing appearance from time to time in Richardson's paintings. Topdog is resting its fleshy flanks against the smooth skin of an armchair and we can only speculate how it got its name. Perhaps we'd rather not know. Dogs are supposed to be Man's Best Friend but when I catch sight of a Bull Terrier in a city street in real life, I'm wary: relieved that it's on the end of a stout chain - or even muzzled - and sad if its owner cruelly yanks the chain or administers a random beating.

Poundland 20 x 122cm
Anywhere You Fancy
Everything is Everything is an exhibition of paintings of a small corner of South London where the artist was born and bred. In Poundland there are few living creatures of any sort around. Like the American artist Edward Hopper, what is missing in Richardson's painting is as powerful as what is present. Parked cars wait in empty spaces like birds of prey - no happy chattering posse of picnickers is going to heave a hamper out of the boot. No one flings back pretty curtains to look out of those dead-eyed windows.
In Anywhere You Fancy we meet some of the characters who inhabit this world. Although Richardson's work is specific and accurate and local, we know what is going on. The gangster, the fraudster, the runaway, the ingenue, the man who promises us  the earth are all there in his work and as we scan their faces we're in touch with our own hopes and fears. I'm reminded of the impact Roy Lichtenstein makes in a completely different style of portrait painting.

Ray Richardson's work is new to me. He's been called the Martin Scorsese of art, and I'm aware that I approach it not always able to read its references to contemporary music and drama and cinema noire. Stripped of all that, I still find it powerful and orginal work.

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