They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, which is exactly what Dazed witnessed when we were greeted by not one, but two Richie Culvers when we visited the artist’s London abode last week. On closer inspection, underneath one of the beards and Amish-style hat was no other than Culver’s biggest fan and good friend Paloma Faith, who will be performing at the launch of New Artists next week, a project that supports emerging artists with short-term, high-impact exhibitions.
The show sees Richie’s most recent collage work and ‘Ray’ series being exhibited at 19th century antiquatarian bookshop Magg’s Bros Ltd, to be displayed amongst William Burroughs photographs and prints and sculptures by creative duo Shorvon & Hunter. Richie’s new work is a continuation of his Family Photo/Suicide Note collages, which address his personal feelings of loss, love and London life. To find out more, Paloma took him back to his roots to uncover what lies beneath this Northern boy’s exterior…
Paloma Faith: So where did you grow up and what was it like?
Richie Culver: I grew up in a place called Withernsea, on the outskirts of Hull, just a little seaside town, very nothing, very working class. It’s basically a run down seaside town where nothing happens. I was born in Hull though and I’m very proud of that.
Paloma Faith: A concrete jungle! So tell me three things you like at the moment, baring in mind the next question is what are three things you love…
Richie Culver: I like art because it’s given me some type of path in life, it’s given me something to concentrate on, whereas in the past I’ve not really had any sense of direction. I wouldn’t say I love art, because I don’t go to galleries as much as I should do. I also like football and boxing, I used to box when I was really young with my Dad.
Paloma Faith: Do you reckon you are a good boxer? Do you reckon you could ‘av it!?
Richie Culver: I was a good fighter but I wasn’t a good boxer, because you couldn’t head butt and stuff.
Paloma Faith: So let’s go on to loves, what are three things you love and why do you love them?
Richie Culver: I love my family, of course, first and foremost, my mother. I’ve put her through a lot of shit in the past and gave her quite a hard time in my teenage years.
Paloma Faith: So is it bad boy turned good?
Richie Culver: Well, I’m sort of starting to repay…it would be nice for one day to look after her. As things are going well in my life, one of my main drives is to be able to do that. I also love, LOVE, if that makes sense. I am a bit of a romantic. I love the thought of falling in love and finding the right person. The third love is life. I love life, but things have turned around quickly for me in the space of two years, career wise. It’s a good feeling. I hate it as much as I love it though – so it would be on my hate list too, if there is one.
Paloma Faith: There is! Let’s go on to your hate list now.
Richie Culver: To be honest with you, I am a pretty easy-going person. I don’t hate too much. The majority of the things that I hate are things that I’ve created myself. I much rather sweep everything under the fucking carpet. Having hate is like someone fucking living in your head rent-free. I don’t have time for that.
Paloma Faith: Let’s move on from the negatives, tell me about your heroes and why aren’t they on stamps!
Richie Culver: I did a piece of artwork about Roy Shaw, an East-End bare-knuckle boxer: he’s one of my heroes. When all my friends were mad into Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris, I was like, ‘No man, Ray Shaw is the hardest’. I don’t know why he isn’t on a stamp. Basically, that’s a lyric from a Public Enemy song, it’s Chuck D singing about Malcolm X or something and he says, ‘Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps’. So I took that lyric and stuck it on an image of Roy Shaw.
Paloma Faith: How do life experiences affect your work?
Richie Culver: The majority of the work I am doing at the moment is really personal. Family photographs, my Granddad and his friends. My nephew has just joined the RAF as an 18 year-old to do computer stuff, but because of his age, he’s now on the front line in Afghanistan. He’s definitely on my hero list. I have so much pride, massive pride when I think of him out there. But back to the work…it’s like, Paloma, when you are writing your songs, it’s all you have to go on, personal experience.
Paloma Faith: And hope that somebody relates to it.
Richie Culver: Yeah. Love and loss; stuff that affects you. The ‘I Loved You’s and the collages are kind of songs. I guess I’m a frustrated musician really. I really wish I could write the perfect love song, but I can’t sing or play an instrument. Like all the collages in my next show are all like little bits of songs, suicide notes. They are what I would have said to friends and relatives that have died too young.
Paloma Faith: You obviously believe in love from what you have said already, but can you tell us what are men like? I saw one of your collages where it says, ‘she knows the ways of men’ or something…
Richie Culver: I reckon just like, everything, you get good ones, bad ones, nasty ones, fucked up ones, sane ones, you get really fucked up ones, twisted ones. I try to surround myself with people that I can trust; I have my friends. But for the piece, it married with the look on her face. A knowing look.
Paloma Faith: So what about the future? What do you want next week?
Richie Culver: Well, next week is the show so I want the show to go well! I don’t know what you are like when you are performing with your shows, Paloma, but I used to get really fucking nervous before my shows, but I actually look forward to them now. All my friends come and it’s more like a party.
Paloma Faith: A Birrofa laff!
Richie Culver: Yeah exactly.
Paloma Faith: And what about next year?
Richie Culver: Well I have so much on next year. I want my show with James (D. Kelly) to go really well. Basically we are doing portraits of 15-20 of our friends but they have two sides, a good side and a bad side. We are going to accompany that with a book. So that’s something I am really looking forward to. I have various collaborations coming up with various clothing labels.
I have a group show with Sarah Maple and Miriam Elia in London and New York, and then a show with all five of my crew including myself, James D. Kelly, Miriam Elia, Sarah Maple and David Richardson sometime early next year. I’m also doing a solo show based on my Jesse Owens piece that featured in the Tate Modern and an exhibition based on the Olympics, a few weeks before they start.
Paloma Faith: And what about when you are old? Do you reckon you’ll be old?
Richie Culver: I don’t know if I will last that long to be honest with you, realistically!
Paloma Faith: Put that in your pipe and smoke it! You heard it here first!
Richie Culver: Well, I don’t make plans and I don’t make breakfast.
Richie Culver exhibits alongside Shorvon & Hunter at the launch of New Artists at Maggs Gallery, London, from 2 – 5 December, 2011. All portrait photographs by James D. Kelly, Images courtesy of the artist, Richie Culver