Art and Eyewear, the perfect collaboration

Kirk & Kirk’s newest collaboration is with the brilliant Ray Richardson; a visionary artist born and bred in London, a city that is not only his home but represents the foundation to his work.
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Friends for over twenty years, Jason Kirk and Ray had a shared passion for music, art and fashion and met through the owners of the clothing brand Burro.  As huge fans of Ray and his work, (they used to trade glasses for paintings) it only seemed right to ask him to work on a lens-cloth design for our on-going Artist Partnership Series.  Previous collaborations in this series include lens-cloths featuring the work of digital genius Thomas Hedger as well as limited edition Sea Cotton T-Shirts with the iconic John Smedley.  Jason says ‘Collaborating with friends, brands, illustrators and artists feels like such a natural and obvious avenue for us to explore.  We get to work with people who share our values and vision and our audience benefits from unique and original collaborations.’

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But back to Ray; born in Woolwich S.E London in 1964, he’s been drawing for as long as he can remember.  Growing up in a family providing no artistic intervention, his passion and talent was instinctive, and he simply started by drawing what he saw; people he saw on his estate or lived down his street.  Cinematography, art books from the library and visits to art galleries stoked his artistic flair, and he had an insatiable appetite to learn and expand his skills.

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He later went on to study at two of London’s most iconic art schools, St Martins School of Art and he graduated from Goldsmith’s College in 1987 (at the same time as Damien Hirst).  He says of his experience: ‘At St Martin’s I was straight out of secondary school at 17/18 years old from S.E.London and suddenly I was in Soho every day and thinking ‘is this for real’, but a lot of the way I look at things and the theory I learnt was from my time there.  At Goldsmiths it was a whole new ball game – they challenged us, pushed us to broaden our ideas and thoughts.  I didn’t realise at the time how valuable it was for me to be a painter there at that time, it was the mid 80’s and the college’s reputation was on the rise, but it didn’t really feel like it then, we were just getting on with things. I did however feel that it was the first college where they were trying to get you to apply a professional approach to Art.’

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His success as a painter went from strength to strength, with commisions and collaborations playing a significant part in his career.  He has worked with the likes of the RSC and Modern Painters Magazine but his favourite piece was being commissioned by The Telegraph to paint the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion at that time – Lennox Lewis.  Ray spent two days with him in a gym down the Old Kent Road, watching as he trained.  The painting is in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery and Lewis is a big fan of it too.
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Despite time spent living and working in Brussels, Paris and Chicago his heart remains in London, it’s his home and the city still provides him with endless inspiration.  Richardson’s work has a very raw and honest narrative – with the influence of cinema, music, books and growing up in London during the 70’s playing a significant part in his work.  Another key influence is Bull Terriers – a breed he fell in love with after watching Oliver! as a child. His mother declared ‘that dog’s so ugly’, referring to Bill Sykes’ dog Bullseye, but he was hooked.  He says ‘essentially, the dog grasses up Bill to the police for killing Nancy, so he’s the hero for me.’ 
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He also has his own, Brian, who hangs out at the studio all day – his muse and the inspiration for our lens cloth collaboration titled Ye Olde English.  When Jason asked Ray to collaborate, he jumped at the chance and knew exactly which of his paintings would transfer well to the project. Jason chose the final painting, which happens to be one owned by the great American writer James Ellroy.   

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Jason Kirk says ‘I’m over the moon that I got to work with Ray on this project – I’m a huge fan of his work and love the final image we chose.  What a joy cleaning my glasses or sunglasses is going to be!’  You can purchase this limited-edition lens cloth directly from the Extra Specials section of our website, and if you’d like to see more of Ray’s work, he has recently had a short documentary made about him called ‘Our Side of the Water’ by a young Belgian film maker, Nina Degraeye which is up for an award at the up-coming Brussels Art Film Festival.  He also has a one man show at Zedes Art Gallery Brussels and Beaux Arts  in London in September 2018 as well as a group show alongside David Hockney, Frank Auerbach and Walter Sickert among others called ‘The Poetry of the Real’ which opens there at the end of November 2017 & continues until March 2018 – so check it out! www.rayrichardson.co.uk

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