After spending ten minutes spluttering and trying to come up with convincing art-speak to justify my degree show the rather lovely sculpture tutor from the RCA who had been given the task of assessing me said “Richard, calm down, calm down (brave words seeing as though we were in Liverpool) It's OK, everything is fine. It's OK to make beautiful things. The world needs beautiful things.”
At that point all thoughts of social and political references flew out of the window and gusted down Hope Street. That man set me free. I wish I had met him on my first day, not my last. I wonder what his name was.
Over the years since leaving college my work has continued to evolve. Firstly I began investigating the transparent qualities of watercolour, firstly with imagined studies of leaves and hedgerows and later landscapes conjured from a remembered amalgam of childhood holidays. As a child I lived for a while in Dymchurch, the home of Dr Syn and I think the wild tales of the Scarecrow and his smugglers must have affected me quite deeply. We spent all of our family holidays in Northumberland with its patchwork of fields and stone walls and then on the South Coast of Cornwall, a county that is awash with mysterious goings on in history and folklore. Kent, where I’m from, and currently live is another Verdant county, steeped in mystery and folktales.
In 2012 I felt compelled to add a figure into my paintings. It had taken 25 years but suddenly I felt comfortable enough to do so. The figure is a girl in a red cape, similar to Red Riding Hood but she is called Hester after the character in The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. She is usually accompanied by a cat. One of the cats is Behemoth named after the cat in The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. The other (with the gold collar) is Oscar, my cat that sits under my studio table next to the radiator. The latest, highly coloured and decorative, paintings chronicle Hester’s journeys through the forest. The white house that has been a constant feature in my work for the last 10 years or so is still very much in evidence, this time it’s the Woodcutters Cottage usually with a smoking chimney, evidence of a warm hearth comfort and safety.
RF June 2013