Art & Photography

Richard T Walker: in defiance of being here

Ahead of his Carroll / Fletcher expo, the artist talks us through his cinematic and musical inspiration sources
I grew up in the countryside in Shropshire, so the reality in which I existed as a child was very much informed by the English landscape. I would get to friends’ houses by walking through fields. However, it wasn’t until I moved to London in my 20s that I really thought about it; that I properly started to see these spaces.

During this time in London, I was working on some projects that were essentially investigations into the role of language in relationships. In a broader sense, I was looking at love – I was intrigued by the communication that was used in particular situations, and how the anxieties caused by the frustrations of language’s failings seemed neatly to mirror the more holistic anxieties and insecurities one experiences when being in a relationship.At this time, I was really into the film Badlands by Terrance Malick, watching it quite obsessively. This led me to “Couple on the Run” films, a sub-genre of road movie including Bonnie and Clyde, Gun Crazy, Natural Born Killers that all have two main protagonists whose love for one another is so powerful and “true” that it can’t exist within the decorum of society. The theme seems to be that in order for the couples to be together they are forced to transgress, often committing successive crimes and escaping civilisation for the limitless bounds of the American landscape. It is only here that their love can exist.

I was completely seduced by the spaces that these characters were entering and I started to think about the significance of the landscape and why I might find it so compelling.

“I started to think about the significance of the landscape and why I might find it so compelling”

It struck me that in these films the otherness that the landscape or nature came to represent was analogous to our inability to understand the couple’s love or connection to one another, which further amplified the sense of their togetherness.

One of the biggest influences has been the songwriter Lou Barlow. In the late 80s and early 90s he recorded a series of albums that were purposefully homemade and lo-fi. Interspersed in-between these playful and rather awkward soundscapes would be an occasional moment of cohesion, something that would rise above it all, presenting itself as this beautiful melodic ballad-like folk-song full of confession, sadness, regret and loss; and then it would dive back down into the chaos. There was something about the way these songs came alive, how their agency had so much to do with context, that I found interesting.I think the way they used music – the playfulness that was investigated in order to interrogate the role of their own sincerity – has been very influential. The ability to create something that is seductive whilst at the same time providing the space for the listener to become aware of the mechanics that are at play, is something that I attempt to do in my work. It’s a tricky balancing act that can very easily fall in either direction – if it is too aware of itself, it becomes glib; too unaware and it becomes overly sentimental.

Richard T. Walker: in defiance of being here runs 1 March – 16 April at Carroll / Fletcher, 56 – 57 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8EQ. Interview by curator Diana Stevenson,  taken from Richard T. Walker: in defiance of being here, the exhibition book published by the Carroll / Fletcher Gallery