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Ian Richards


Ian Richards is a British artist, born in 1974.

Using processes of social engagement he explores society and culture with the aim of disrupting expectations and personalising mainstream narrative.

Ian invites dialogue and interaction through the content, design and location of his work in public spaces.

He works in diverse forms including sound, print, text and image, installation and multiples.

He has explored site specific interventions in public spaces that articulate lived experience of HIV.


The bodies we inhabit are not impermeable; they do not come into the world packaged with assurances of forever. We accept that with time our body will degenerate and breakdown. We hope that this will happen at a remote point, as if our mortality is on the horizon, signposted somewhere just beyond our focus. We don’t have to look for signs.

In a doctor’s surgery is a poster for HIV/AIDS awareness, the patient is told:‘Look behind you, this is you now’...This is what he became when he was informed of his bodies’ inhabitation by an incurable virus.

For the generations brought up with the discovery of HIV/AIDS, its symbolism was depicted by images of the deathbed, the tolling bell and the tomb. The emaciated body, the vials of blood, the shock that Oliviero Toscani used to sell you jumpers by Benetton. Strategies were engaged by artists that articulated ideas beyond these narrow parameters. General Idea’s AIDS (A Project for the Public Art Fund, Inc.),Derek Jarman’s Blue,Karen Finley’s Written in Sand and Felix Gonzales-Torres’ Untitled (Perfect Lovers) brought a humanity to picturing AIDS/HIV.

Time brings transformation. Time has bought medical breakthroughs and better drugs. It has brought with it adherence to medication schedules that render the virus undetectable within the body, and life expectancy projected at near normality. The conversation we have about HIV/AIDS need to refocus to life not death, challenge preconceptions and address nuances of language and symbols.

Ian Richards’ work has been built around extensive research into the current life experiences of HIV+ people. The artist has engaged responses through conversations and gathered research from worldwide participants. The work he is currently developing in response to this will be reinserted back into the public arena – through billboards, site-specific text, and distributed as postcards and tote bags to form oblique poems. Acts of disclosure from HIV+ people on fallibility, infection and the future are placed site specifically by Richards, the work public yet opaque. This space between knowing and unknowing will open up other readings; the text a the bus stop that states Please take a seat in the waiting area will build its own relationship with the world from the HIV+ man who travels from it to his clinic. Here the link between diagnosis and daily life is underlined as a routine , a continuum , recent sound works focus on alarms and adherence and the emotions they signal Video work removes the image and soundtrack from the 1986 British public information campaign Don’t Die of Ignorance,using subtitles to describe the psychological impact of the advert that heralded an apocalyptic monolith for AIDS. In Richards’ work you will encounter texts that disrupt, words inhabit handtowels and are imprinted on soap. These works indicate an incessant presence; one that is routinely unseen and uncommented on. A subject without discussion becomes a stigma for all of us.

Text by Cathy Wade | July 2015 | cathywade.co.uk