Richard Talbot

I use drawing as a way of thinking, and a way of bringing together apparently disparate ideas and images. Through drawing I can start with a gut feeling, a vague thought, a hunch or an idle observation and can distil and combine these into something concrete.

Drawing has become the major part of my studio practice, but I think of myself as a sculptor. Within the drawings, I develop forms associated with architecture, maps, landscape, water, vessels and containers, using a process (geometric linear perspective) that involves producing a complex and almost transparent matrix. This web of lines acts as scaffolding in which the images are created and then held. Importantly, and possibly paradoxically, a strict geometric drawing system such as perspective allows me to have an almost purely intuitive response to ideas and images.

My approach to making a drawing is comparable to that of the building a medieval/gothic cathedral, where a relatively rigid two-dimensional ground-plan was put in place, and the ensuing structure then developed organically, its form being the result of varying amounts of intention, pragmatism, accident and ambition.

The drawings continue to celebrate the physical sculptural pleasure found in constructing/building, cutting and carving, but the images and structures within the drawings can exist without the constraints of gravity, scale and materials. Seen as a whole, the subject matter of my work is the three dimensions (and more), and it therefore follows that the work also touches on light/optics, philosophical, scientific/mathematical as well as purely physical ideas. I am particularly interested in medieval and early renaissance architecture, painting and perspective, and in particular, the work of Brunelleschi, Masaccio and Piero della Francesca. The influences also range from Merleau-Ponty’s notions of depth being the primary dimension to architectural, alchemical and cosmological images. For instance, I have made drawings that refer directly to cathedral architecture, in particular, playing on the connection between boat structures and the derivation of the word nave. Other drawings have played on ideas relating to ̵distillation’ and laboratory glassware.

My work also continues to be informed by my earlier experience, of studying astrophysics at university, and I am aware that there is still common ground between some of my ideas and those within some areas of science. The drawings have also led me to making sculpture in a variety of other materials, including paper and rubber, and to working in other media, such as photo etching and embossed printmaking techniques.

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My studio practice has led me to question some of the orthodox thinking regarding the history and origins of Linear Perspective and its use within early Renaissance painting. A peer-reviewed paper published in 2003 in the Nexus Journal of Architecture and Mathematics raises issues relating to the use of geometry, proportion and perspective not only within the paintings of Masaccio and Piero della Francesca, but also in the paintings of Domenico Veneziano, Uccello and Leonardo da Vinci. It discusses the possible origins of perspective and its relationship to architecture and pictorial space during the renaissance, and ultimately, questions the orthodox history of perspective.

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The purpose of the paper is to demonstrate an approach and method for constructing perspectival space that may account for many of the distinguishing spatial and compositional features of key Renaissance paintings.  The aim of the paper is also to show that this approach would not necessarily require, as a prerequisite, any understanding of the geometric basis and definitions of linear perspective as established by Alberti.  In particular, the paper discusses paintings in which the spatial/geometric structure has often defied conventional reconstruction when the strict logic of linear perspective is applied.  It specifically examines the spatial construction of four very different paintings in order to explain how the geometry and methods involved may shed light on Brunelleschi's architecture, as well as on some of the questions and issues surrounding the history, origins and nature of linear perspective.

Briefly, I propose that an explanation for the unique compositions and the apparent inconsistencies of many paintings is that their spatial structures have not been generated purely using the logic of linear perspective.  I would argue that their distinctive characteristics are not the result of making a projection from a ground plan or constructing a pavimento.  Rather they are the result of developing a space using a particular two-dimensional geometric construction -- a matrix -- to create a ready-made framework into which the imagery is then fitted.  Further, I would say that the imagery within the paintings is sometimes directly inspired by the geometry and imagery of the matrix itself.  The matrix contains both a surface grid/pattern and the diminishing proportions that provide the characteristic convergence, and the controlled changes of scale necessary to create the spatial illusion. 

More information on this research can be found at:

and at:


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