The Artist Richie Culver
Editor from Mr Porter
The poster in question was a portrait of the artist by another artist, a painter named Mr Alan Coulson, and the image was used to promote this year’s BP National Portrait Award. Mr Coulson’s image of Mr Culver won the bronze medal. “When I first moved down from the North, years ago now, Alan and I worked in the same clothes shop,” explains Mr Culver, a man born in Hull and unwaveringly proud of it. “He came to one of my solo shows, we got to know each other and he asked whether he could paint my portrait. He told me he was going to submit it for competition this year. I’m so proud of him. Of course, it’s a little peculiar seeing your face around town, especially when you get stopped or recognised. Some people think I’m more famous than I actually am – the poor sods!”
Fame and art are strange bedfellows. There are times in Britain when being a successful artist – that is, a commercially successful artist – can somehow seem to diminish the value of one’s work. Take Mr Damien Hirst, for example – the fact that he has become one of the world’s most successful artists has somehow rendered all those ideas and all that creativity, well, distasteful. As if art shouldn’t be a career so much as impassioned endeavour, and that when money changes hands or enters the equation this somehow devalues its authenticity. Mr Culver’s art manages that rare thing of being both true (or at least honest), and commercial – as well as being aesthetically very pleasing. There’s no doubt that he is on to something – a talent bred not from going to some fancy London art college or learning about technique, but a raw, instinctive talent that has bled directly from his own turbulent life experiences.
Notoriety has come to Mr Culver relatively fast – it was only five years ago that he started making art and having it exhibited. “I’m a 1990s child. I remember looking at people like Hirst and thinking they lived more like footballers – mouthing off and having his picture in the paper the whole time. It was appealing, especially having come from such a working-class background. But becoming an artist for me was never really a viable option – I worked in a caravan factory in Hull and London felt like a million miles away, know what I mean? But I had a lot of trouble and death in my early life; lost a lot of friends. I wasn’t a musician or a writer and I needed a medium through which to jettison all this pent up emotion and sadness.”