by Avantika ShankarMar 01, 2021
Every once in a while, an artist comes around who makes you re-evaluate your expectations of art itself. When Marcel Duchamp, the iconic French artist, sculptor, chess player and a writer during early 1900s, presented one of his earliest ‘readymades’, it was a direct affront to the accepted values of the art world at his time. Bicycle Wheel (1913) by Duchamp is, at face value, nothing more than two commonplace objects put atop one another. So why did it cause such an uproar in the art community? Was it the way it hacked at the elitism and exclusivity which shrouded the industry at the time? Or was it the offence it caused to artists who slaved away to create intricate sculpture and delicate painting work? Perhaps it was both, and more, but regardless of the chaos it caused at the time, it is looked back upon as a turning point in the history of art as we know it.
While Richie Culver is by no means equitable to polymath Duchamp, his repertoire evokes a similar meme-like quality epitomised by the notorious installation by the French artist, titled Fountain (1917). Like the French Dadaist, Culver juxtaposes objects and materials in a manner which renders them rather useless. He says, “My sculptural practice is an extra body part to my overall output. It leans more towards the minimal side of me. It’s an ongoing dialogue using cement or steel usually - media I used to work with when working on building sites etc. when I was younger”. While his three-dimensional works recall a Duchamp-esque mood, they lack the poignancy of his text-based canvases. These works provide the viewer with an ironic perspective, encapsulated by carefully studied typefaces. His works alternate between calligraphic aesthetics and messy scrawls, a choice which seems reflective of the artist’s mind and voice.
UK-based Culver speaks with STIR about his new project in collaboration with Blackhaine, a musician and movement artist in Lancashire. The artist says, “I made a painting called did u cum yet, those words painted onto a large canvas. I wanted to paint the most basic sentence that actually had meaning. Also, I wanted to work backwards. Literally to pre-birth. Do as little / paint as little as possible. That’s always my aim. I did not take this particular route in life to work hard after all. Once I painted it, I posted it on Instagram and it kind of went viral. I then decided to destroy the painting and make a book out of the comments the painting received, which was far more interesting than the painting. The comments touched on basically everything and opened up this particular project to much more. The book sold out, and I just released a second edition, which also sold out…”
He continues saying, “Then one morning I came across Blackhaine...his movement work. I have not been affected physically for some time by anything. I almost felt violated. I went on to find that he also makes music / raps. I felt his whole aesthetic would be perfect for an audio-visual element to the did u cum yet concept. We eventually made a two track EP - Did u cum yet / I’m not gonna cum, with an accompanying video. This places the concept into a whole new world - a much more challenging world. It’s basically spoken word against noise. Not since The Streets first album have I heard someone portray a better visual landscape of England and an individual’s inner turmoil. It’s very beautiful...it’s perfect. It will be out early 2021 on limited edition vinyl on Participant Records, a label me and my friend William set up”.
Culver’s work is varied in treatment but can be distilled into a clear expression of a millennial subculture today. The artist says, “People do struggle to place my work in a certain box. Which is whatever really. I am not concerned. When I am dead it will all fall into place without my consent anyway. I am ok with memes. In 2020 I took memes far more serious than any kind of modern art I saw”.