The Four Letter Word


The British artist Richie Culver comes to Norway with a bag full of Northern English experiences and a Google trail of style and celebrity. At the center lies an artist dealing with love, life and death – leaving behind a series of impressive artworks. Are we ready for the the Young British Artist round two?

Mr. Culver, in many ways your the perfect poster boy for the next generation of young British artists. You’re stylish, credible and direct – and you’ve made a lot of emotionally honest work already. Why do you think that your British experience is connecting with so many people?

I’ve lost a lot of people, and loss informs a large part of my work, it always has and probably always will. I describe my work as songs for walls, and my intention is to get the viewer to feel the same emotions that they would feel when they listen to music and that is a difficult process. I try to express the hurt I feel in photographs and painting, I try to be honest, and I think honesty connects with people, especially in visual art.

After bursting onto the art scene with having an artwork shown at the Tate Modern, you might expect the artist to have been quickly signed to a powerhouse gallery. Instead, Mr. Culver has opted to look towards other creative industries for inspiration.

You’ve chosen to go a different route than the usual “go to school then get a gallery”. What’s it like building both a body of work and a career while entering the art world from the outside?

To have management as a visual artist is a new thing really but I’m seeing more and more of it, especially here in London and New York. I have two managements companies working on my behalf, P Artist Management in the UK who work closely with me on developing my working practice and producing my work, and PMM based in the US where they also look after Chris Levine, Charming Baker and some other great artists. Artist management has definitely caught the attention of the art world and we will move on to gallery representation when we feel it is the right one at the right time. I’m still a young artist and being represented by heavy weight management teams gives me confidence that someone else supports what I’m doing.

Weightlifter by Richie CulverWeightlifter

When you emerged on the scene, it was with the collage work “Have You Ever Really Loved Anyone”, combining the iconic imagery of Jesse Owens and your own words. I know that you’ve lately been working a lot with photography, and that a lot of the works in your show at Skur 2 will be photography based. I think your collage work is really solid, and it also happens to be very trendy. But instead of sticking to what first brought you success you’re branching out into different disciplines. What is it like to quickly evolve as a young artist, when you have already gotten the attention of the media as well as collectors?

I see my work as evolving from one medium to another so that I will work fairly intensely in collages, as I did with the Have you Ever really Loved Someone series, and with each piece the ideas become clearer, more defined until I have said everything I want to say about that concept. Then another idea will interest me such as the Jesse Owens series, and I will explore all the possibilities that emerge, as in that case moving from collage to photography. My I loved You But You Just Couldn’t See It paintings started in 2010 and I constantly make new pieces for that series- I can’t imagine I will ever run out of things I want to explore with that theme, I feel very close to the message, and it gives me an almost infinite chance to experiment with different colours. So the ideas are bound up in the text, the medium and the colours.

I can’t imagine I will ever run out of things I want to explore with that theme, I feel very close to the message, and it gives me an almost infinite chance to experiment with different colours.

Growing up in Hull, an ordinary British working class town, Mr. Culver has often talked about his aspirations of making it as a footballer for the newly renamed Hull City Tigers. After his sports career died before it could really take off, the artist had to reassess and spent time in distinctly unglamorous – and unartsy – jobs. Still, he did not stay in Hull after a stay in New York he came up with his first great collage work.

Your career kicked off when you moved to London, and recently you relocated to Berlin for a while. How does geography influence the work?

I’d have to say that geography doesn’t really influence my work because wherever I go in the world I have to take me with me. I think too much and find it hard to live in the moment or for the moment. I’m either worrying about the future or mourning the past.

Could you talk a bit more about the show at Skur 2, the works you’ll be exhibiting and the process that has led you to Stavanger?

For the Skur 2 exhibition in Stavanger I am working with the idea that underneath beauty darkness lies, so exploring people’s ideas of flowers, which are that in general that they are considered beautiful, but underneath my images of beauty lurks something filthy, bestial even, but it’s not obvious on first glance, you have to look closely at the works to see this. I have used a technique I have been developing for over a year which is a layered collage of photographs, and for this show I am producing them on a very large scale. I was inspired by my initial visits to Stavanger, by the beauty of the place, the people and the richness of life there.

Love Her by Richie CulverLove Her

If the reader is to Google you, she’ll quickly find plenty of celebrities alongside you. How do you feel about being surrounded by fame and success, and balancing work in the studio with a social life?

I have lots of friends that have succeeded in their chosen fields, but I’ve known most of them before they were famous. I’ve always surrounded myself with creativity, and I’m just proud of them for doing so well. I wouldn’t say it affects me at all really. The whole googling people is pretty weird too, the idea today seems to be that if you’re ‘googleable’ you’re successful or known for something, fame is all bullshit and London is full of it. I don’t like it. It’s one of the reasons I moved to Berlin.

In Norway, talking about selling work is often viewed as vulgar, and a lot of well regarded artists rely more on state grants than wealthy collectors. You don’t seem too afraid to accept that there’s a commercial part of being a successful artist. Do you feel there is a conflict between selling objects and making great art?

Yes. I definitely got that impression when I’ve been in Stavanger. It’s all out of my hands what sells and what doesn’t, but what’s important to me is to survive and be able to eat and stay alive I guess and I do this from selling my art. I would say my price point again is totally out of my hands but is where it should be for where I am in my career . Norwegian artists are really lucky. I wish we had that same system in London , I think it’s vulgar too but I’m happy I can make a living being able to do something I love.

With a massive solo show underway, and a dedicated team to help him, 2014 and beyond is looking promising for the young artist. But what about his beloved football team?

The Premiership just got on its way, and many are predicting that newly promoted Hull will have a tough time this year. Tell us, why will Hull City surprise the pundits and stay up?

As a kid I used to stare over the North Sea wondering what was over there. Fifteen years later I find myself doing a show there and spending time in that distant land I once pondered over. I would no more have guessed that this would be my fate than that Hull would make it to the Premiership. I’m incredibly proud of the city that raised me, and I have every confidence in manager Steve Bruce to buy the players needed and build the team. Stavanger and Hull are neighbours across the sea so I am hoping to make you guys fans of Hull City.

You can find The exhibition “The Four Letter Word” at Skur 2 in Stavanger, norway. it opens 5 September and closes on 29 september. View more works by the artist on his own website