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Self-Taught & Visionary Art in New Zealand

Ray works simultaneously in various manners. His primary manner could be seen as following the noble New Zealand tradition of backyard tinkering by retired tradesmen; makers of whirligigs in the form of running Pukeko and cut-out, used tires that look like swans. Another way Ray works is as a wordsmith; his signs recall the work of preacher-folk-artists of the bible belt in the U.S.A.

Ray does use recycled materials and he often rigs up propellers on his creations, but he has also managed to elevate the ‘language’ of the backyard hobbyist to a realm that involves poetry and philosophy and keyed-up, visual, mischief-making in general.

The subversive and whimsical humour at play in Ray’s work is balanced by a deeper impulse. It is his depiction of the transience of things, and it could be read as a spiritual element. In one painting, three stages in the life of a woman are overlain and interwoven, and our eye struggles to separate out the shapes of the body parts. This overlay of images is one of Ray’s graphic techniques. In another technique, the line that describes the edge of a form is broken like the centre line of a street; the object becomes see-through, floating, transient.

In this place where things are not fixed in form or time, the folly of human politics and institutional authority get revealed. Often, in Ray’s work, nonsense is made of signs, and institutional proclamations get turned inside out. But it is not a simple mockery of established orders that is going on. I think that surrounding the work there is the preacher-artist’s affection for a great creator, a creator who loves sex, women, colour, laughter, four-legged things, and one who permits a poor mortal to find wonder in the ordinary—to turn a flip-top ashtray into the blinking eyes of a dog, and an old bathplug into a royal crown.


Selected Works

  • ‘Angel’‘Angel’
  • Down with the SystemDown with the System
  • ‘Eyes’‘Eyes’
  • Prohibited VehiclesProhibited Vehicles
  • Join Ray Ritchie’s HaremJoin Ray Ritchie’s Harem, 1995
  • Reality is a quite a funny placeReality is a quite a funny place, 2008
  • UntitledUntitled
  • UntitledUntitled
  • Oriental Bay, Topless AnonymousOriental Bay, Topless Anonymous, 1984

Showing 1–5 of 9 works. | Show only signature works