Vibrant colours, bold patterns and intense black lines are telltale markers of artist Richard Woods' work, whether applied to an outdoor bungalow or the floorboards of a gallery. Merging Britain's DIY aesthetics with contemporary art, Woods uses painting, installation, printmaking and sculpture to explore surfaces and façades. Noted for his astute observations of the contemporary world, some of Woods' recent projects are concerned with the housing crisis in Britain.
Throughout his career, Woods has become known for his signature wood-grain motif, which combines bright colours and black line work reminiscent of cartoons. He refers to these artworks as 'logos' because, to him, they advertise the concept of wood over the actual material. Since his first public commission—for which he refitted the floorboards in the dining hall at Tabley House, Cheshire, in 2000 with logos—Woods has deployed the pattern on the floors, staircases, walls and ceilings of several private homes and galleries. Another leitmotif common to his work is a pattern based on dry stone—a construction method that doesn't require mortar. Woods used the pattern in 2013 when he was commissioned to build a maze for a late-18th-century orangery in Wakefield, Yorkshire, for which he used the dry stone marking as the skin of the maze. Woods' maze, however, does not aim to be a faithful recreation of a dry stone wall; its palette of red, orange, pink and white is deliberately unnatural to demonstrate its artificiality.
The artist's interest in imitation and façade is, in part, inspired by the DIY movement in post-war Britain, which saw people employing homespun techniques—such as manipulating paint to approximate the appearance of marble—in order to improve the appearances of homes at minimal cost. For Super Tudor (2002), Woods transformed the façade of Deitch Projects, New York, into a black-and-white appropriation of mock-Tudor style—a 19th-century aesthetic that is itself loosely based on aspects of the Tudor architecture of the mediaeval era. In 2005, Woods drastically changed the exteriors of the Long Room and bath-house at the University of Oxford's New College by covering them with red bricks—only they were not actual bricks, but constructions made from wood. The artist again paid a direct tribute to DIY culture in 2013 with his exhibition DIY at Alan Cristea Gallery, London, in which he covered the interior of the gallery with his logo patterns, vividly coloured woodcut prints and sculptures.
Woods' architectural interventions involving mock houses address the UK's housing crisis and the broader implications of multiple-home ownership. Holiday Home, conceived for the Folkestone Triennial in 2017, is a set of six houses that are styled after traditional British bungalows but constructed at a third of the size of a standard house. Inspired by a leaflet that encouraged Folkestone residents to sell their houses essentially so visitors could buy them as holiday or second homes, Woods placed his creations in desirable and undesirable sites throughout the port town. For instance, a yellow house was built on grass while a pink house floated in Folkestone's harbour. The project was followed by Upgrade (2018), for which Woods dumped one of his Holiday Homes in a roadside skip in London. Taking place during the London Festival of Architecture (June 2018), the performance-installation attempted to stir conversation about the consumer culture of houses in the city where some own more than one home and others are forced to leave theirs due to soaring housing costs.
Since 2007, Woods has been collaborating with London-based designer Sebastian Wrong to create furniture that combines his cartoon-like aesthetic with utility. Their output includes 'Bricks & Mortar' (2009)—a series of sofas and chairs upholstered in Woods' red brick texture—and multi-coloured chairs covered in his logo patterns such as the Studio Chair (2011) and Logo Chair (2013). In 2012, the duo—also known as 'Wrongwoods'—offered an alternative to a conventional one-piece table with their 'Bent wood table', which consists of flat-surface plywood tyres stacked in a pile. Each piece was created using the steaming process, a traditional woodworking method that manipulates long planks to bend by steaming them.
Woods graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 1990. He has exhibited in Frieze Sculpture, London (2018, 2013); Folkestone Triennial (2017); Saatchi Gallery, London (2014); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2009); Liverpool Biennial (2008); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2002); the Henry Moore Foundation Contemporary Projects; and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003) among others. WoodBlock House—the artist's studio and residence in London that features his trademark wood grain motifs and colourful palette—was completed in 2014 by de Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects (dRMM).
Documentation of Richard Woods installing his site-specific exhibition at Alan Cristea Gallery, April 2013. The exhibition continues until 1 June 2013.Film by Laura Bushell