– Spring/Summer 2003
'... not so much a style...'
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Untitled, detail, gouache on wall, Gagosian Gallery, London, 2002. Courtesy the artist.
Charles Esche: The question of decoration inevitably comes up in your work, but it can also seem to trivialise it. For me, the decorative forms in your work seem to be in tension with themselves. There are ideas of decadence and an exploration of visual excess - for instance: how far can it go? At the same time, the works' lack of longevity is in line with minimalism's puritanical mode. So is the decorative something you want to respond to in the work? Do you recognise that tension in it? And is there a way of speaking about the decorative without falling into anti-intellectualism or ideas of visual pleasure?
Richard Wright: I would first of all like to challenge the connection between decoration and triviality. This is an attitude that goes back as far as the Reformation (if not before), and that we find manifest most recently in the confining ideology of early modernism, which tried to purge itself of forms that were seen as excessive or not essential.
Obviously, I reject the idea of pure art. The fact that the forms I might use are somehow trivialised or lowered by this way of thinking is, for me, precisely what makes them usable. But I would like to go beyond terms such as 'visual pleasure', 'decadence', etc. that imply something onanistic or empty. I would like to go beyond the whole culture of this way of thinking - I would not call the façade of Cologne Cathedral or the ornamental art of Islam decorative, I would call it ecstatic.
Looking at this from a slightly different position I would say that ornamentation and abstraction are