Richard Walker: Cuckooland

22 – 30 September 2020

A new body of work inspired by Ray Bradbury’s influential novel FAHRENHEIT 451, incorporating painting, drawing, music and spoken word at Bermondsey Project Space

The Transfiguration of Guy Montag mixed media on canvas, 46 x 46cm

In August this year we celebrate the centenary of writer Ray Bradbury. His best known novel FAHRENHEIT 451 was written in 1953 and to mark this occasion, artist Richard Walker has produced a new body of work inspired by this influential book.

Rather like the other classic novels of the time, Brave New World and 1984, it deals with a dystopian future, predicting a totalitarian society where literature and education is banned, and books are destroyed by a fire brigade that starts fires rather than extinguishes them.

Lockdown mixed media on canvas, 28 x 28cm

“Since working on this project there has been the Covid-19 pandemic, which uncannily echoes my theme. The current self-isolating, social distancing and culture of fake news has pushed my images into sharp focus, suggesting new interpretations and meanings. Ray Bradbury’s disturbing vision of an alternative world is now, sadly, all around us. 

“In the story, Bradbury predicts interactive TV, drones, the rise of terrorism, surveillance, the banning of intellectual thought and the promotion of populism. Today’s general acceptance of the invasion of privacy, with apps such as ‘track and trace’, and algorithms being fuelled by the tyranny of social media, the characters in Bradbury’s novel would happily fit into today’s world 

“My title ‘Cuckooland’ is shorthand for this dumbed down society. Much of my work over 4 decades has focused on urban themes, often celebrating the dynamism of cities but also ambiguously revealing the dark side. I did work about both the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the London 7/7 bombings, being hailed as an ‘accidental war artist’ by The Times, alongside Henry Moore.

“Films with themes that have inspired me include A Clockwork Orange, The Stepford Wives, Alphaville, High Rise and the psychodramas of Hitchcock and Polanski. Also in visual art there are the empty cityscapes of De Chirico, the floating figures of Chagall, the postwar coded landscapes of Anselm Kiefer and the less known chunky modernist forms of the Italian painter Mario Sironi. 

“I try to absorb these influences, then forget them, and let a natural flow happen” 

Richard Walker, August 2020