Mark Richards: notes from a critical discussion about his latest work

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Joined: 12 Dec 2010

Mark Richards - Australia/ Japan
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A critical discussion organised by that took place in Mark Richards studio while he
was completing a Red Gate Gallery Residency in Beijing, late 2010.

• Rob Birch - England
• Elisabeth Czihak - Austria
• Alex Gibson - Australia
• Shana Kaplow - USA
• Mark Richards – Australia/ Japan
• Guo Hao - China
• Joo Yeon Woo - Sth Korea

Structure of the discussion
1. Observations and Associations (30mins) *
2. Critique (30mins) *
3. Questions and Answers (30mins)
4. General Discussion (30mins)

* For the first half of the session (see points 1 and 2 above), the artist is not allowed to speak. This
allows the discussion to be focused more on the work, rather than the artists intentions.

A description of the work presented
The work Mark Richards presented was not yet titled. It showed two identical fiber glass figures of
male children aged roughly 4 years old, standing opposite each other, leaning onto the other and being
supported with chopsticks in their mouths. The figures appeared to be gagging on the chopsticks and
the weight of their counterpart. There was an expressive tension in the bodies and faces. The entire
work was spray coated in gold enamel paint.

Observations and associations by the group
1. gold baby twins leaning on each other through chop sticks in their mouths
2. split struggle between mirrors
3. freuds mirror phase
4. struggle to survive in nature
5. fetish, desire, lack, want to be more than what we are
6. subjective position
7. signifies/ signifier the idea of gold, value, tourist trinket
8. plastic and cheap
9. kitsch
10. space between the babies has tension
11. relationships with other
12. Armageddon, end of the world – opposites,
13. binary logic
14. we need each other and we hate each other
15. gagging is visceral
16. Gary Coleman was bashed to death by a narcissist woman (no empathy)
17. religious icon
18. lack of symmetry in the details
19. didn't see them as chopsticks connecting them
20. This connection as umbilical cord
21. Phallic
22. they are baby men
23. Chicken and the golden egg, mouth is open, eyes are closed
24. some kind of illness and disease that the baby
25. The lack of symmetry of chopsticks makes it not like a mirror
26. Chinese idiom: a group of chopsticks are hard to break, but one chopstick is easy
27. political tension, consumer culture to its logic conclusion
28. war, cold war
29. perhaps something about reproducing themselves
30. not a baby, some kind of short man – the balls have dropped

Critique by the group
1. too accomplished
2. overstated
3. declarative
4. anatomically incorrect
5. work more on the tension of gravity
6. surprise us more with the execution
7. very polished both literally and figuratively, but how can you inject more rawness
8. its not the rawness, its the decision of where to put the tension
9. decide what you want to do and how to do it
10. too literal
11. i want to be more moved
12. it could challenge me more
13. when you install, this might bring in more rawness
14. the visual language and finish is a matter of style of the intention of the artist
15. it should be mass produced
16. intentionality is not possible, contexts are too big
17. trying to control the process
18. jeff koons are not interesting objects
19. very easy to copy
20. familiar quality, it looks like a lot of work we've seen

Artistic References the group suggested
1. Fang Li Jun
2. Yui Min Jun
3. Jeff Koons
4. Juan Munoz

Questions and Answers
Q: Previous ceramic piece have colour?
A: Yes, I have used fake gold bars
Q: How to display? On the floor...
A: They were originally going to be on bullion, gold bricks, but they don't need that anymore.
Q: What if you leave the chopsticks as not gold? To make them more chopstick like.
A: Perhaps its not important
Q: It could be interesting how this perfected surface might be shifted?
A: Yes, I have considered being more gestural. Achieve movement and power by making it rough and
cut up.
Q: I want to know what you would do if it didn't fit into contemporary art
A: Thats the point! I have only been working for 3 years. I taught myself. I just started making little
babies. Really naïve. I couldn't stop making them. I just keep making them. I don't understand my
language yet at all. I was writing things about what society is, and thought – that is such a lie. I think I
have been scared of what I was thinking.

Mark Richards Artists Statement
“The babies are used as a function of accessing space for externalising my hidden unconscious
memories. They embody memories of situation in which I have felt extreme self conciousness.”

Conclusion by Alex Gibson
Mark Richards latest scuplture, as yet to be titled, is of two identical infant children that look
intentionally like the artist as a toddler. These are not idealised babies however, rather Richards babies
are grotesque. Like a horrific, but very funny parady, these babies have adult genitalia, are gagging
each other on chopsticks and are coated flawlessly with gold enamel paint.

The conflation of a psychotic fantasy that tortures the figure of infancy combined with symbols of
power, money, material success and excess, touches some obvious allusions to capital, materialism and
absurdity. However, the impression of the work that seems most interesting is its iconic nod to low
brow black humour. It is this, a kind of playful psychosis, that seems to lead to a Zizekian nightmarish
future of an absurd low brow distraction from the true horror, our own subjectivity; that is, the
narcissistic failure to recognise the reflection in the mirror as not ourselves, but as just an image of

Richards irreverence towards the sacred, his use of political and economic symbolism and his gifted
hand at creating figurative sculpture bring the work together as an accomplished outcome. In the future
it would be nice to see his work develop a broader iconography and methodology, but in the meantime
his baby works are quite curious and intriguing objects that speak deeply about our internal struggle to
recognise ourselves in a world where image is everything.

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