Richard Bartle
About the artist

My work has always been as much concerned with the processes of making as it has with subject matter. Early in my education and career I became deeply interested in the alchemists, especially the idea of alchemy as a disciplined process and the achievement of perfection through repetition and refinement. It was through this interest that I discovered other concepts around deconstruction and symbolism. My earliest influences as an artist tended towards the German painters of the 70s and 80s, most significantly amongst these; Anselm Kiefer, Albert Oehlen, and Martin Kippenberger, all of whom embodied for me a revolutionary and visceral style that seemed exciting, eclectic, and at odds with the establishment. However, the greatest influence on my practice was Sigmar Polke, whose use of design techniques and appropriation of cultural signifiers inspired in me a more controlled working method that still expressed a reactionary style and narrative.

Further influences through the writings of Barthes, Baudrillard, Derrida, and Lyotard, specifically around the postmodern condition and notions of the image as a signifier, guided my practice philosophically. My earlier works, though retaining a certain amount of the autobiographical, sought to engage in a socio-political discourse around the dichotomy that I perceived existed between the human condition and the natural environment. Likewise, Gaston Bachelar’s seminal work ‘The Poetics of Space’ awakened in me notions of the uncanny and the potential of the mundane and commonplace to hold characteristics beyond the obvious. Later, as contemporary concepts of materiality intersected with this, I became fascinated with simulation and representation. Thus, decoding the material surface and texture of the world as a means to create my compositions became a significant part of my practice. Through this coming together of ideas, I was guided towards the methods I still use today; clean lines and hard-edged forms as repositories for a more painterly narrative; a strong use of colour and shape with an attention to mark making; and experimentation with texture and surface.

Since 2008, when I attended my first artist’s residency at Platform Garanti in Istanbul, my practice has tended to focus on the experiences of being immersed in Turkish and Middle Eastern culture. Whilst on residency I became obsessed with the work of a 14th century miniature painter and storyteller from that region and through this inquiry began to explore, often holding up his works as a mirror through which to engage with the contemporary political and historical world around me, or as a way to reflect on my own personal story as part of something timeless and universal. I think it’s worth pointing out here that my interests in Turkey, particularly Istanbul, are born out of a fascination not just for the city and its rich and stimulating environment, but also in the city as an intersection point through which countless generations have passed, shared ideas, and left their influences.

My most recent projects in Istanbul remain engaged with this ongoing inquiry into the modern city and its historical roots, as well as the people I encounter there. Paradoxically, as I have become increasingly aware of myself as an outsider looking in, and my familiarity with the culture has become more informed, I have tended to see myself more as a storyteller than a conduit of truths - always seeming to be battling against my natural tendency toward orientalism. At the core of my work remain those original concepts of materiality and context, as well as meticulousness in conjunction with the gestural and responsive act of painting. In creating my work, I often appropriate from the graphic design, found images, and street-art motifs I find around me in Istanbul. Another strong focus of my recent work is on the material and aesthetic properties inherent within modern and historical architecture and the urban environment.

I am a British artist with a career of over 28 years. My work is predominantly painting, sculpture, installation and film. Early on in my career, I achieved some success and was represented by a reputable gallery in London, selling to a number of private collections. Later, as I attended my master’s degree at Sheffield Hallam University, I began working in installation and less traditional mediums. It was during this period that I started exhibiting in artist led project spaces. In 2009 I exhibited with the Sheffield Pavilion at The Istanbul Biennial and the following year at The Mardin Biennial in southern Turkey. My first significant museum level solo exhibition came in 2012, when I exhibited Deities at the Bottom of the Garden at 20/21 Gallery in Scunthorpe. Since this time, I have mostly focussed my attention on residences and exhibitions in Istanbul. In 2020, I had my first solo exhibition at Sheffield Museums and Galleries, fulfilling my ambition to bring my fifteen-year Istanbul project Nomadic Tales back to a UK audience. I currently share my time between my studio in Istanbul and my studio at Bloc in Sheffield.



Photograph by Richard Harland ©