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Richard Howell

Find, make

Richard's work represents a journey taken over 30 years.  He started as a painter working with bold flat colours and hard edges. Then he began adding texture, eventually becoming more daring - scratching, rubbing and sanding. The deconstruction of the surface became an integral part of the work and his fascination with materials was born. 

At this time Richard started making card structures, sometimes landscape based, sometimes like unearthed machinery that has been buried for years. These pieces were splatter painted using a tooth brush, building up many layers and colours, achieving a stone like quality. For a long time he also made wooden nail artworks, inspired by Stanley Spencer's monumental painting 'The Crucifixion' - and the nail form still occasionally crops up in his work today.

The reliefs were pivotal as they encouraged experimentation.  Richard first began using copper wire thanks to a car boot sale find, initially using it to bond objects together but now he also uses it as a sewn line, pricking and back-stitching. 

His body of work combines many materials: some found, some made, some altered. Textures fascinate him.  He often works with paint fragments - a by-product of his day job as a decorator - which he shapes or threads with wire. For nearly two years he worked with calcified water which had formed on the inside of an immersion heater. The material was brittle but so beautiful, with an array of subtle colours. 

The found materials used in Richard's sculptures come from many different sources, including scrap yards and skips, which he loves to explore. His current work has ancestors, rather like a family tree, but each sculpture has the confidence to stand tall and proud on its own. For him, the creative journey is one of progression. There are no rules, no barriers, just the excitement of not knowing where the road will lead.

​The Reliquaries

These reliquaries are part of an ongoing project, with no time frame in mind. The only thing that dictates them is the size of the object selected for inclusion. Each reliquary can be a standalone piece but is also part of a bigger picture. 

Richard started making the reliquaries in 2011, making his first one after discovering a medal from the Crimean War in a skip.  He felt the need to honour the brave soldier who had earned this mark of respect and made a simple cross and tied that medal band to it, then placed it into his very first handmade container.  The idea of repeating the same form was inspired by an exhibition of the work of artist and writer Edmund de Waal, whose delicate porcelain pots were all of a similar proportion. They were beautifully spaced and had a mesmerising quietness and stillness to them. While the reliquaries are very different from his vessels, Richard likes the notion that they can be spaced uniformly and each can tell its own story or be part of a broader narrative. Some people have interpreted them as cages but he sees them as a means of preservation, not imprisonment.


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