Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
It varies, occasionally I might wake up with a fully formed idea at 5am, but more often, it’s almost an amalgamation of influences and ideas intersecting… a memory, or something I’ve read, the feel or look of a material, the historical or cultural significance of an object or story, the news…thoughts that have a visceral and emotional weight to them. Then I mentally circle around the idea for days or weeks, almost poking it to see if it has life to it, testing to see if it holds up to interrogation, and feeling into what form the idea might take. I usually start with video or photography in my studio, but I travel a lot so right now so I’m playing with an idea in an Air bnb! I’m moving the bed around and carefully removing the pictures from the walls to make a mini studio!
Who or what are your biggest influences?
Life in general influences me, the news cycle, the light on an object, injustice, an old song, the feel of the dish soap bubbles… it can come from anywhere! Currently the colour of soft serve Mr Whippy ice cream has me obsessed!
I’ve been lucky to have some incredible mentors and tutors over the years. The women in my life are a huge influence, my grandmother would never have called herself an artist, but she made incredible work, my mum @pennyrichceramics, is a ceramic artist and has always been brave and inspiring. I have a solid group of female artists, curators and writer friends who like to talk about ideas and who’s courage and commitment to their practices influence me enormously.
My first recollection of being moved or inspired by art was when I was fourteen, visiting a friend's house, and her parents let us watch ‘The Eyes of Laura Mars’. Faye Dunaway plays a photographer and her work in the movie was created by Helmut Newton. I had no idea who he was, but it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. Horror and beauty occupying the same frame. That idea of seduction and repulsion coexisting and the point at which they intersect still preoccupies my practice.
Documenting social, political, and historical events has always underpinned your work, sharing the unseen, commentary on bigger ideas or spotlighting things hiding in plain sight, tell us more about this interest and how it informs your work?
I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything is political. I am curious about truth and history and how the stories we are led to believe, whether historical, cultural, or personal, are written by the one who wins or stays. Those in power. I am drawn to the idea that truth is entirely subjective, and that memory is flawed. I am making that unknowable space of ambiguity tangible.
The material choice for the finished piece of work materialises during the process. I have worked in many mediums and materials, but I almost always start with photography exploring the idea or object through the viewfinder. The finished form is integral to the work and the concept, but its only in the making and exploring that the finished piece evolves and the final decision gets made.
1. My cameras. I shoot mostly digital on my Sony, but I am falling back in love with film. I’m loving my old Rolliecord that Harry gave me a few years ago.
2. Tea. I bring flasks of tea into the studio every day. Or if I’m out and working on the land doing performance, I take flasks with me. It keeps me - and my camera batteries warm - if I’m somewhere cold! I can’t live without it.
3. My most important tool is time! As a mum I’m constantly scrabbling for time. I would love to be able to do a residency, just to create without distraction. My husband travels a lot for work and our youngest son has anxiety so right now that’s not a possibility, but one day!
I read somewhere that Patti Smith said she reads so much but never remembers anything. I’m a little like that. I read all the time and struggle to recall details. The bravery and ingenuity of writers in general inspires me. I’m traveling right now and reading Louise Erdrich The Sentence, it’s so good it inspires me to do better work, to take more chances. 30 years ago, a friend and I worked our way through The Artist Way, by Julia Cameron, we met every week. There are concepts in that book that I still use today. Morning pages, artists dates, ignoring the inner critic. I also learned the importance of support and accountability working with someone on it. Invaluable lessons and practices.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
Yes, I’m so excited about this! I have my first solo show in Los Angeles in September! Opening September 23rd and runs for 6 weeks. Gallery 169 in Santa Monica. Follow along on my instagram @richellerich for more details. My first solo show in the US was due to be at Lisa Schiff’s gallery in New York last month and it was cancelled when the gallery closed unexpectedly, so I’m thrilled to be showing the work in LA!
I am also running a photography workshop from The Art House Joshua Tree in November, based around self-portraiture
and the incredible Mojave desert landscape. Sign up to join me!
I created the 'The Art House Joshua Tree’ my studio and a domestic exhibition and residency space in 2020. My work is currently on show there. Sign up for the monthly digital zine ‘The Art House Files’ to learn more about my practice and
for details on upcoming events.