PETER RICHARDS: Intuitive Actions, Common Attributes and Isolated Incidents, 13 September – 25 October, 2014, Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown





Gallery TWO

is a common display of islands of meaning in a space, flat images on a shelve or directly on the wall, 3D on a pedestal or  trolley. Each is given approaching and leaving viewing space with strong emphasis on the condition of viewing.

Stopping the Spots, 2014  invites to transverse along the horizontal display. The rhythmical gathering of three or two is punctuated by solitary single  as if gradating their role in the overall set. It is misleading. Each image  holds its own recognisable  meaning on its own, ignoring its immediate or distanced neighbours as well as the out of scale white circles.

CommonAttributes_042  The random appearance of the white disc works as an alien force field captured by chance. It flirts with our discomfort of not knowing why and what it is –  a light? An abstraction of astronomic depth?  A set of plastic bubbles interfering between the image and the lens?  Your choice.

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Each white Spot, however, requires effortlessly and playfully  a serious and  disturbing meaning:  erasing sensuality  of  and uprooting traditional snapshot from its lived experience, thus creating a context from within.


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That context is conceptual art.



Richards has grounded the aesthetics of this display in  combinatory flow  known from mathematics . Maths has aesthetics of its own. A flow of data  makes out aesthetic experience in several exhibits. This aesthetic strategy is  favoured by   Ryoji Ikeda currently  exhibiting at the House of Electronic Arts Basel.

Ryoi Ikeda

Ryoji Ikeda numbers


In the middle of Gallery 2 is  a projection room with no walls.

,preparation for…’ Residue of a 12 minutes action with an Electrosonic ES3601 Presentation Unit, two Kodak carousel projectors, a section of 16mm leader, and a 12 minutes endless audio cassette, 2014

Richards counts  slowly from 1 -10 – with no apparent link to the projected image.


A result of a 12 minute performance piece that was enacted, recorded and infinitely looped  on the evening of the exhibition opening (Gallery handout).  The ontological context forges a sharp fall from real to mediated, from live to repeating loop,  recurrance of the same. The sensuality of life is squeezed out without any sentiment,  more brutally that  in the series concerning the Spots. Yet, the level of energy in the projection is higher than in the objects that create it. Gift of light.

Paul Sharits, Untitled, 1975/6, accessed on

In comparison with an exuberant use of hues above, Richards installation echoes ordered classicism..


Not just light, also scale matters  to the visual power. On the left in the above installation shot is a huge pedestal with a tiny screen of a large old viewer.

‘Untitled: table and chair exercise, 9.1’ S-VHS. Duration approx. 20 minutes, 1995

The lens recorded the action,  then subsequent stages were superimposed over each other.  It is quite difficult to read  on a small screen.

Richards seamlessly moves from lens to no lens to performance to conceptual art.  Equally seamlessly he  lets all being devoured by duration, giving time the prime role. Like onion, each work has layers of  meanings in parentheses of questions: how sensibly (or not) comprehend curiosity (or boredom),  and chance (or severely curtailed plan)?

There are two exhibits that pretend not to belong. On one wall a series of images of blinds

‘tergo fenestram’ silver gelatin prints, mounted on aluminium, 9 from a series of 11, 16 x 12 inch, 2014

Paraphrasing Heinrich Heine , blinds as concrete bodies are finite, the light forges an illusion of infinite space behind them.

Shutters _042


On the opposite wall is a visualised idea of greatness: a tree.

The Significance of Vitalism in Red, pinhole exposed Duratran mounted on Dibond with laminate, 100 x 80 cm, 2013

The language of the title not only insists on creating its own context, it also  shifts from one meaning to another.  Either it is “significance of vitalism”  this time in red hue, implying existence of  variations in other colours,  or it is  just  significance of  one and only ‘vitalism in red”.  It creates indexical situation governed by  preference. A question how many versions are possible remains unanswered. (If you remind yourself of Vito Acconci here, it may be a valuable connection).


The Gallery ONE differs.

An airy display charms you by its calm dignity. Having typed the word ‘dignity’ I felt an opposition from several of the exhibits. yet, the overall impression is that.




A sense of going beyond what you can possibly take in  instalments led me to see the display, all of it as one work of art.  The clinching element was (sadly) verbal:


Printed in red this call was near the door  behind which the “vitalism in red” was silently watching.

This one screams three exclamation marks, a sign of a burdensome desire? Or uncertainty?

‘Action suspension’, 8mm (silent) film loop, 3 Bell and Howell 256ex projectors, 2014

Richards used a segment of an old family film  and let it destroy itself.  Note the set up, the bar above is a sign of high professionalism, the loop was not. The projectors   belong to history – so does the story on the loop. The  cumbersome plinth carries far too many,   somewhat obsolete projectors  for a briefest of documents. Time appears in three guises: the finite past, the briefest of  repeat, and  infinite duration surrounding both.  This linear time became to fragile and gave in to space and light that projects itself.


Back view of the projectors underscores their being out of time.

Untitled. Live video interaction.Exercise 1′ S-VHS. Video documentation of a performance collaboration with a mobile TV crew, and footage from a related review program from the 2e Recontre International d’art Perfromance, curator Richard Martel, Quebec, 1996. Duration 25 minutes plus, 1996

Naturally, time sliced into sequences turns into a believable history.  Even if fragmentary. Time is viewed as linear, a concept that governs the series of  unique prints of on subject – albeit in motion.

Balancing (not dancing with), Pinhole exposed Duratrans with archival gloss laminate, 2014


Still images fill in 21 Variations in black and white. Each carries a seated person and a handwritten text of their choice. The duration of writing determined duration of the exposure.

21 Variations, 16 x 12 inches, framed silver gelatin prints, 2014

Richards asked Kim  McAleese to invite selected persons to come to the studio, write any answer to a question  why they came. Two have not turned up, Richards included dark images and no text.  This is from Tony Hill, Richards’ tutor for MFA degree…




So far – majority of exhibits subscribed to a linear time. However, in all cases, there was a repeat, a loop, some sort of recurrence.

This idea received a powerful, yet discreet, embodiment in ‘A Perimeter…’. reel to reel tape, looped.2014


The three tape recorders are connected with the continuously running tape forging a triangle.



I did not hear the whole quote from Herbert Marcuse essay On Liberation (1969).  The very use of language whose sound turns into dust  not only pointed to the black and white memory of death



Star Dust – ashes on primed linen, diameter 42 inches, 2014


but also to the tools of renewal.



The idea of linear time  gave way to a cyclic time in full.  The triangle of  the sound tape is a visible, visualised   Ouroborous (dragon devouring its tale) – eternal recurrance.

Artists at times are like philosophers.  They see beauty in what is necessary and in  uncompronising     acceptance  of what happens ( ashes of beloved  cat). Perhaps, I am not wrong in seeing this exhibition as a  portrait  of Richards’ contemplative attitude to time.  Amor Fati as Peter Richards perceives it.

There is an undertone: deliberate  and   fond use of neglected equipment – another cycle – signals respect for the old, be it a recorder, viewer or pinhole camera.

It is another link to the ancient idea of eternal return – often connected to Nietzsche’s writing.


Images from the exhibition courtesy Peter Richards


About Slavka Sverakova

writer on art
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