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Review: Richard Walker, Kildrum

By Neil Cooper, 20.02.2024
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Richard Walker, Kildrum, 2019. Image courtesy of A_Place Gallery

Richard Walker’s early schooldays have clearly left their mark in this small but expansive exhibition of paintings by the Cumbernauld born artist. This is most evident in the two black and white photographs of the now demolished modernist new town primary school Walker attended, and which are placed like bookends at the top of the show’s large scale title piece that hangs across the entirety of the living room size gallery’s main wall.

In one image, three children play beside a totemic concrete water tower. In the other, a deserted school refectory awaits the bell to fill it with rowdy life as light pours through its voguish spaceship styled windows. 

Richard Walker, Kildrum, 2019. Image courtesy of A_Place Gallery

Each of these small pictures is framed in an oval shaped cut out that resembles something that might sit on an elderly relative’s mantelpiece. In between, at the painting’s centre, another egg-shaped image suggests something darker beyond its frame. Beneath it, an array of tentacles and roots jostle for space in what may or may not be a large fish tank type construction overloaded with little creatures and watched by an audience in shadow. 

The image of the refectory is partly overlaid against a shadowy cut out shape of a man standing in profile, his nose, chin and semi erect penis protruding into the rich blue backdrop. What looks like jettisoned sperm swims into a busy sea of debris. Utilising Japanese woodcut techniques, ‘Kildrum’ (2019) is made up of a series of small paintings made separately before being cut up and assembled on the bigger canvas to make a psychoactive fantasia drawn from memory and collected as a disparate dreamscape. 

Then again, look at it from a different angle, and it becomes something different again. The other side of the painting is warmer and less cluttered, cosy, even. Is that a dog in a basket? Birds in a cage? Or are they just shapes of things to come? Walker has spoken of ‘slowly removing the figures’ from his work. If ‘Kildrum’ used to be his playground, despite its busy disparity, it is also full of absences.

Richard Walker, install image from Kildrum at A_Place Gallery

Three more recent smaller paintings are just as instinctive excursions into dark places where a schoolboy on the run might hide out. Painted directly onto canvas, these layered multi-dimensional abstractions hint at solitary secrets. The brooding largesse that permeates throughout suggests a remembrance of things past that taps into the everyday sense memories childhood leaves behind.

Richard Walker’s exhibition Kildrum is exhibited at A_Place Gallery, Glasgow until 23 February. Opening hours: Sunday 2pm-4pm, Tuesday - Thursday 11am-2pm & by appointment