as hull-native, richie culver’s practice has come to draw upon a certain biography and nostalgia for the whimsy of a starkly british type of classism. through paintings, sculptures and drawings, culver unfurls an idiosyncratic monologue of narratives, places, characters and stereotypes of working class britain that are described in poster-like, declarative fashion. they do not exoticise or critique the social other, however; rather, their tonality - which playfully adopts iconography , sound bites and visual puns - makes humour its central currency.
through mismatches of image and text, art historical references rubbing shoulders with “low” cultural ones, culver’s paintings familiarise the viewer with a characteristic colloquialism and joviality that is in correlation to both the artist’s shifting perspective - from localised, northern milieu, to an aspirational, cosmopolitan, yuppie class of the city - and to the recent history of how disenfranchised communities have come to form a pivotal role in post-industrial democracies.
figureheads such as diana, princess of wales nod to an era of shared and benevolent patriotism, of blairite governance that saw record investment in public services, a period of expanding liberalism and globalism. the nostalgia that is key to culver’s practice, therefore, pitches itself against the trumpism and media-heavy culture of nations dived by the populism into urban elites and regional workers. culver’s practice is, at its source, the autobiographic snapshots of the artist’s life as he recalls, experiences and collages it in. in their context, however, the images, words, bike locks and stickers emerge to symbolise a more generous and collective sociality that is in need of resuscitation since watershed political events of the early 21st century.
the tragicomedy of culver’s work, therefore, operates through a kind of televisual humour - one that laughs with rather than at its characters - in order to bring its visual language into focus. in what could be misconstrued as irreverence and “in-jokes”, the paintings and drawings make light work of their social dislocation in time and place, employing the barbers, the “wheeler dealers”, the nightclub owners and the greyhound racers as a cast of gentle misfits. richie culver’s work thus stands at a unique confluence of autodidactic, autobiographic and socially-minded art practice.