Ray Ritchie

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Media Release: April, 2003. 

An exhibition that draws on the kiwi tradition of the backyard hobbyist opens this week at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, City Gallery Wellington. Ray Ritchie, a local self taught artist, has been making eye-catching pieces of painting and sculpture for the last 30 years. The First Exhibition Ever is the first public exhibition of Ray’s artwork. Many of the pieces in the exhibition are everyday objects and materials which Ray elevates through his own creative ‘language’ and transforms into colourful, whimsical creations.

Ray’s work first came to light when his wife Margaret responded to a notice artist and Massey University lecturer Stuart Shepherd placed in a local community newspaper as part of a Massey sponsored survey of self-taught and visionary artists in New Zealand.

As guest curator Stuart Shepherd explains, “Ray Ritchie can be seen as following the noble NZ traditional of backyard tinkering, which has produced whirligigs in the form of the running Pukeko or cut-out used tyres that resemble swans.”

Often in Ray’s work non-sense is made out of signs and institutional authority gets set up. But it’s not just a simple mockery of established orders, there’s an affection for a great creator - as Stuart Shepherd says, “a creator who loves human animals and four legged animals, colour, and chaos, and one who permits a poor mortal to find wonder in the ordinary, to transform a flip-top ashtray into the blinking eyes of a dog, and an old bathplug into a royal crown.”

During the past 30 years Ray Ritchie has worked as a civil servant, a merchant seaman, and an actor. He has been making artwork from his house in old undeveloped Newtown, Wellington for the past 30 years.

Ray Ritchie - The First Exhibition Ever is presented within the 360 programme – a full perspective on Wellington Art, which is generously sponsored by Designworks, Workshop DIY Framing and Suspect Productions.