"For the most part, people show the outward appearance of order and civility but underneath that exterior there's usually something far more interesting happening."
Adam Riches is an emerging British painter and draughtsman whose characteristically stylized portraits are based on a sensitive response to the human condition, ranging from furious expressive moments to poignant, melancholy reflections. Using both pen on paper and oil on canvas, Riches' explores the human psyche and delves into the effects of current social and political issues upon individuals, as well as their behavior toward one another. The artist is especially interested in people's frailties and their fallibility - in particular, their potential for extreme behaviour.
Untitled XVI, 2018
Pen on Paper, Framed
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. Did you always want to be an artist?
A. I think so. Although there was quite a long period of time where I wasn’t very creative. I have been drawing since I was a small child and people told me I was good at it. I think when you’re young and someone tells you that you’re good at something it makes you want to do more of that thing. One of the few subjects I looked forward to at school was art, but unfortunately, it wasn’t given much importance at the school I went to, and so it never really seemed like something worth pursuing.
Q. You work both in paint and in pen on paper, does each medium represent a different form of expression for you or are they simply different tools to serve a similar purpose?
A. I think that they are different tools to serve a similar purpose. I like to drift between drawing and painting to keep things interesting for myself. When I feel myself lose enthusiasm for one medium I do something with the other.
Q. How did you arrive at your rather unique way of using pen on paper?
A. I’ve been drawing with pen since I was a child, making artworks from imagination. From around the time I left school until my mid-twenties I was doing very little drawing at all. Then, I started to make photorealistic drawings. I’d seen some that other artists had made and that sparked my enthusiasm and motivated me to find my way back into making art. It wasn’t too long before I was bored with the long and laborious process of trying to replicate a photo. It was then that I decided to do a BA in fine art. I began to move away from photorealism to make work that was more loose and spontaneous. Knowing more or less what a final work will look like before I even start, has lost its appeal to me. Making those drawings requires energy and there is always an element of unpredictability that makes the process exciting.
Q. You have stated that your work is a response to the human condition. Could you elaborate on this?
A. I’ve always been interested in depicting people. I used to copy historical characters from books, with my father when I was a child. When you get older you realize that these characters - like all people - are fallible and flawed and this is what I am interested in. They have the capacity for and good, evil, and everything in between. It’s the potential that ordinary people have for malevolence that I find the most fascinating and terrifying aspect of the human condition and this is something that informs my work.
Q. You have commented on the potential ordinary people have for malevolence and how it is a driving force for your work. How does this relate to you personally? Do you choose to mainly focus on the psyche of others and the human condition in general or do you draw on your own as well?
A. I think that it’s interesting to try and put yourself in the mindset of people who have acted in ways that would ordinarily be unacceptable but that have been legitimised by extreme circumstances.
Untitled III, 2021
Mixed Media on Paper, Framed
Q. How do you choose your subjects? Are they familiar faces or imaginary people?
A. A lot of my drawings stem from my imagination. When I do make drawings from reference images it’s generally an image of someone who’s life or work interests me in one way or another.
Q. You have stated that your way of drawing requires and provides a certain amount of energy and unpredictability that makes the process exciting, what takes priority for you - the artistic process of the outcome?
A. I used to make work with a very specific outcome in mind. For example, I would have an image to work from and try to replicate it as faithfully as I could. But I began to lose interest in working in a way that leads to such a predictable outcome. Now, I find myself excited by working with processes that are more serendipitous. For me the outcome is important, but the excitement of the process is what keeps me enthusiastic about making more work.
Oil on Canvas
Q. Have you received any unexpected or extraordinary responses to your work?
A. I have had people send me images of tattoos of my work that they have had done. That was unexpected when it first happened.
Q. Are there specific forms of extreme behaviour of which humans are capable that especially interest you?
A. I am particularly intrigued by the way that people behave when they’re in a group context. People tend to do things in groups that they wouldn’t usually do as an individual. They seem to follow blindly what others in the group do and lose their sense of objectivity and individuality.
Untitled XV, 2021
Pen on Paper, Framed
Q. Which other creatives do you admire?
A. Some artists I admire are Francisco Goya, Yan Pei Ming, Gerard Richter, Zdzisław Beksiński, Georges Seurat and many more.
Q. What do you think are some of the challenges facing artists today?
A. Getting people to see their work and being able to make a living from it is a problem I’m guessing that most artists have always faced, but that has probably changed a lot since we’ve had access to the internet. I think social media has been great for artists to get their work seen, but at the same time they are competing with lots of other people that have the same idea. So I suppose being able to stand out in some way is something that artists have to overcome.
Untitled 0106, 2018
Pen on Paper
Q. What would you still like to achieve as an artist?
A. To continue to be excited by making my work is something that I would be grateful to achieve.