Upfest 17 – Ray Richardson: My old man said ‘you only start earning in that game when you’re dead’

So, let me start by saying what the media says about Ray Richardson:

‘Ray Richardson is the Martin Scorsese of painting’  Lindsay Macrae GQ Magazine

‘Ray Richardson is the David Lynch of paint and canvas’  Iain Gale The Independent

RR Tales from the riverbank

RRRoll Along Summer

RR The Merc Job

I must admit in researching Ray I was a bit gobsmacked to see that previous interviewers included one of my writing heroes Hanif Kureishi – no pressure then!!  (see Conversation on Ray’s website).  And what a generous man as when I pointed that out he said ‘The Hanif Kureishi thing was more a conversation than an interview (his suggestion) around his house one afternoon in Hammersmith done on an old school cassette player that took place over three hours and some poor sod had to edit afterwards so don’t worry about having to do that.’

There was a slight delay in him getting back to me as  Turps’ magazine launch yesterday that has a big article written on me by Marcus Harvey the guy who did the infamous Myra painting in the Sensation show a number of years ago.’


So here is my interview – you can always read a bit more on his Wikipedia page.

Bit of background and how you got into art before Goldsmiths and St Martins

I was born in Woolwich S.E. London in 1964. I studied at St Martins School of Art and Goldsmiths College. I’ve lived and worked in London, Brussels, Paris and Chicago and currently live and work in S.E. London

My paintings more than just a mirror of everyday life. They are drawn from my own experience of being born, bred and from living and working in London but also beyond there. When you look at my work you don’t have to experience it through the usual suspects of art history and great artists that I admire such from Breughel to Vermeer to Hopper to Richter. I see it it too through the minor musical language of Gil Scott Heron or the pulp history of James Ellroy or the motivation of cinema and photography.

I always drew as a kid but was a good footballer and was a junior at Spurs until I was fourteen but had decided in the back of my mind that I wanted to go to Art School ‘cos I was still drawing as a teenager (even though I didn’t really know why) even when I was playing football why I wanted to go to art school.

Influences on your work 

Just two as there are too many to mention so Edward Hopper Nighthawks‘  Breughel ‘The Land of CockaigneGoyaThe Colossus‘ dunno where to stop really.


What was the best piece of advice that you were given when you were starting out as an artist?

Nothing really positive. My old man said ‘you only start earning in that game when you’re dead’. First day at St Martins a tutor gave a talk saying that ‘only 3% of you will still be doing this in ten years time’ but by the time I finished at Goldsmith’s they did in put a bit of a professional vibe that wasn’t happening anyway else at that time pre ‘ArtStar’ days. I was there when it’s rise began although it didn’t seem a big deal to be there at the time to be honest. I just kept saying to myself till this day the old Soul music saying of ‘Keep on keeping on’.

Can you tell me about some of your previous exhibitions

I was in a museum show alongside Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Sir Peter Blake, Paula Rego & David Hockney amongst others about Contemporary British Figurative Painting – it don’t get too much better really. One of my two paintings in that show called ‘Our Side of the Water’ it’s about where I grew up in Woolwich in London right by the Thames and it’s where I have my studio now and it’s of my mate who by day is a decorator but who is also a good artist. It’s a painting about hope in some poxy times that we’re all in – that’s what I like about it and it ain’t too bad either.


What is important to you about your art?

It draws on my life and experiences and so it has an honesty. I don’t want to do stuff that’s about other peoples stories. Sometimes our stories are the same but they got to be told in your own way otherwise it don’t feel right to me.

Divided Soul Beaux Arts London

What is your process in creating a new piece / body of work?

When I’m in my studio I will work on a lot of pieces at the same time and I like working in the sketchbook drawing & writing bollocks that means something to me. That way I feel productive. I don’t start one work, see it all the way through until then end, and then start another. It’s far more organic than that. It has to be because if I get a block on one piece then by working on other works simultaneously those blocks can get unblocked sometimes without me knowing how. Fucking magic happens or not and I don’t sometimes know why.

RR wip

Can you tell me something about what you will be doing at Upfest?

I don’t know what I’ll be doing at Upfest just yet. I’ve got a few ideas but I haven’t decided on one. I’m about to go away with my younger son for a short holiday (as he’s just graduated from Uni) so I’ll get me head around it while I’m away when he’s stuck into a film or his games or something then I’ll be away drawing away in my sketchbooks. Half the time I dunno what I’m doing next week.

What are you looking forward to most about Upfest?

I guess I don’t know what to expect so that’s quite exciting. Getting to see what other people get up to will be interesting. Getting out of South East London for a few days (ha ha).

Whose work are you looking forward to seeing?

Guy Denning.  A blinding painter in my humble opinion and a top bloke off the pitch too.

Where are you at Upfest?

I’ll be working at St Francis Church nearby Royal Ti I think.

What have you got coming up for the rest of the year – where will people be able to see your next works

I did four or five one man shows in London, Luxembourg. Brussels & Lille in the last 18/20 months plus other bits & pieces in all over the shop so I said I’m doing nothing now (apart from some commissioned work and a bit of art fair shenanigans in Paris) until a one man show at Beaux Arts London in March 2018 and then in Brussels in September 2018. So keep ’em peeled…


Website            Instagram         Twitter         Facebook                    Upfest profile

See Ray Richardson’s work at St Francis Church

Upfest Saturday 29, Sunday 30 Monday 31 July 2017

Upfest Festival Map

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