Richard Wright makes site-specific paintings (on walls, ceilings and even floors), drawings and prints. In the 1980s he used to paint works on traditional supports such as canvas or board, but he became sickened by the rampant and cynical commercialisation of much painting of the period and even gave up painting altogether for a time. Eventually he began to develop a new art practice, based on painting directly onto walls and other permanent surfaces, usually on a temporary basis. After an exhibition of his work was finished, the work was painted over and thus destroyed. This was idealistic in two ways. Firstly, he was not creating a marketable product. Secondly, and probably more importantly, he was responding to a real, pre-existing space, with its own formal structure and its own history, and not deciding on an arbitrary format and size for his painting surface.
In this respect Wright was very much working in the constructivist tradition, as developed by artists in revolutionary Russia – the work of El Lissitzky, for example - or by those in Holland after the First World War, artists such as Theo van Doesburg in the movement known as De Stijl. The forms that Wright developed tended to be geometrical (often repeated lines or forms), organic (such as plants) or drawn from popular culture, or sometimes a mixture of all three. If the first two were often inspired by art-historical sources, such as geometrical, non-objective art or Art Nouveau, the last owed much to musical sources (Wright has played in a band), such as record covers or fanzines. Gradually Wright’s repertoire of forms has become much more complex and intricate, probably as a result of the highly elaborate drawings that he has made. His room paintings, such as the gold filigree work that he made for the Turner Prize in 2009 or the dizzying force lines – a graphic technique used in engineering – visible in the stairwell of Modern 2 in Edinburgh, are amazing feats of painstaking complexity.