Painting is an act that connects reality and consciousness. It is more than a collective codification of signs. It is a performance that awakens the delirium of vision.
Richard Wright is known for large-scale and site-specific—but often temporary—painted and applied metal-leaf installations and leaded window works that invest architectural spaces with new optical and associative complexity. Shifting between illusionism and abstraction, his projects alter the viewer’s perception of space. Incorporating graphic and ornamental elements, his work often alludes to Minimalism and Renaissance art as well as to commercial images. In his stylistically diverse works on paper, Wright employs ink drawing, gilding, printmaking, enamel, and watercolor painting techniques that Camden Art Centre director Martin Clark described as having an “allover quality that seemed to exceed the limits of the paper, a field of indeterminate shapes and matter: drifting, coalescing, accreting and dissipating, like the curl of vapour in an alchemist’s alembic.”
Wright was born in 1960 in London and moved to Scotland with his family when he was young; he now lives and works in Norfolk, England, and Glasgow, Scotland. He graduated with a BA from Edinburgh College of Art in 1982 and an MA from Glasgow School of Art in 1995. Initially producing figurative painting, he became disillusioned with the methodology in the late 1980s and abandoned his art practice altogether for two years to train as a professional sign painter. While studying in Glasgow he destroyed all his work on canvas and began painting directly onto the walls of exhibition spaces, often focusing on corners and other marginal areas to emphasize the interaction of his imagery with its built environment.
Wright’s earliest site-responsive works are characterized by geometric shapes, but the artist soon began to also adopt motifs inspired by Gothic iconography and other visual disciplines such as tattoo illustration. The first solo exhibition of his work took place in 1994 at Transmission Gallery in Glasgow, and he quickly came to be considered—alongside Martin Boyce, Douglas Gordon, Simon Starling, and Cathy Wilkes—one of the key artists to have emerged from the city over the course of that decade. Since then, Wright’s work has been shown in major exhibitions worldwide, including Kunsthalle Bern (2001); Tate Liverpool, England (2001); Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland (2004); No Manifesto, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, Italy (2005); Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2008); Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2010); Theseus Temple, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna (2013); and Walk through British Art, Tate Britain, London (2013). In 2009, Wright was awarded the Turner Prize.
In addition to permanent private commissions, Wright’s public institutional commissions include the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2007); Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, England (2007); Dean Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2010); The Millbank Project at Tate Britain, London (2011–13); Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (2013); and Drawing Biennial, Oslo (2014). In 2016, he was commissioned to make a vast permanent gold-leaf work for the 400th anniversary of the Inigo Jones–designed Queen’s House (now part of the Royal Museums Greenwich), which was the first classical building in the United Kingdom. Wright’s work cloaks the whole ceiling and upper walls of its Great Hall. In 2018 he was commissioned by the Crossrail Art Programme to make a ceiling work more than eighty feet long at the Tottenham Court Road station for London’s new Elizabeth Line, which opened in 2022.
In an excerpt from his forthcoming monograph, Richard Wright pens a personal and philosophical text about painting.
Behind the Art
In an interview with Kay Pallister, the artist explains his relationship to drawing and the importance of time in his site-specific works.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2019
The Summer 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Afrylic by Ellen Gallagher on its cover.
Louise Neri discusses the artist’s new exploration of glass works.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
Talk and Book Signing
Wednesday, April 12, 2023, 7pm
Burlington Arcade, London
Join Gagosian for a conversation between Richard Wright and Martin Clark, director of Camden Art Centre, London, to coincide with the artist’s solo exhibition at Gagosian, Davies Street, London. They will discuss Wright’s latest body of work, recent commissions, and new monograph, which provides a comprehensive overview of his practice between 2010 and 2020. Published by Gagosian, the book documents projects made for well-known public spaces and private residences around the world, and includes essays by Wright, Clark, and social anthropologist Tim Ingold as well as an in-depth conversation between the artist and Will Bradley, director of Kunsthall Oslo. After the talk, Wright will sign copies of the book, which will be available for purchase.
Richard Wright (New York: Gagosian, 2023)
West Bund Art & Design 2022
November 11–13, 2022, booth A102
West Bund Art Center, Shanghai
Gagosian is pleased to participate in the ninth edition of West Bund Art & Design. The gallery will present new works made for the fair by Georg Baselitz, Roe Ethridge, Thomas Houseago, Alex Israel, Harmony Korine, Adam McEwen, Jim Shaw, Alexandria Smith, Spencer Sweeney, and Tatiana Trouvé, alongside works by Ashley Bickerton, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Nam June Paik, Richard Prince, Ugo Rondinone, Ed Ruscha, Richard Wright, and Zeng Fanzhi.
Gagosian’s booth at West Bund Art & Design 2022. Artwork, left to right: © Adam McEwen, © Roe Ethridge, © Alex Israel, © Harmony Korine. Photo: JJYPHOTO
Elizabeth Line, London
Richard Wright’s No Title (2018) has been installed on the ceiling of the Tottenham Court Road station’s eastern ticket hall as part of the Transport for London (TfL) Elizabeth Line, which opened for service on May 25, 2022. To make this work, Wright and his team painstakingly applied gold leaf to the raw concrete ceiling in an intricate geometric pattern whose reflectivity fluctuates depending on the ambient light. At seven stations on the Elizabeth Line, the Crossrail Art Programme commissioned public artworks that have been designed to interact both physically and conceptually with their sites.
Richard Wright’s No Title (2018) installed on the ceiling of the Tottenham Court Road station’s eastern ticket hall, London, 2022. Artwork © Richard Wright. Photo: GG Archard, 2022
Art Capital: Art for the Elizabeth Line
March 13–May 6, 2018
Whitechapel Gallery, London
Art Capital: Art for the Elizabeth Line showcases nine internationally renowned artists and their plans to create major public artworks for London’s newest railway, the Elizabeth line. Each artist has been commissioned to create a work of art sympathetic to the locality, history, or function of one of the stations. The exhibition brings together sketches, maquettes, and prototypes to reveal the artists’ ideas transformed into deliverable public art. Work by Douglas Gordon and Richard Wright is included.
Douglas Gordon, Revue, 2018 © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2018. Photo: Balazs Studinger