Once whilst meandering through the streets of an unusually snowcovered Marseille, Richard Denny discovered an abandoned box of maps.

Upon further examination it was an extensive collection, holding topographic portrayals of most regions of France. As the overlord of general semantics, Alfred Korzybski, once said: “A map is not the territory”. This highlights the notion that one can peer at a map, and understand the layout of the land via it, but the map will only ever signify the geography of what is there, never accurately describe its nuances.

With any space comes a set of rules and regulations - and with the collision of cultural spheres that permeate the atmosphere the potential for creative ignition is heightened. Due to his lack of French, Denny was effectively a linguistically paralysed mute in the land of Euro-Afro fusion that is Marseille. Maps became his primary interactive tool and fast became a double-edged canvas used to vocalise and navigate his culturally imposed silence.

By deploying the found maps as an actual canvas, and a basis for his characters, he has found a means of dripping flavours of personality and territory over the maps. Using the lines of contour, river, border and road, Denny would paint in his own lines, shapes and textures. Later, from these cartographic cross-hatchings would emerge characters representing people, daily experiences or settings, that Denny acknowledged inhabiting the streets in his new home. He used what little he had at hand to locate himself in his new culture showing telltale signs of a bricoleur.

The works came to light during a six months stay in Marseille and a further six months in London, with a sprinkling of times in Cataluña, Marrakesh and various Hanseatic ports thrown into the mix, the stories and body of work evolved.

Observers will no doubt see influences from movements such as American Action painting, French Tachism, the European Cobra Movement and global Street Art. Really though, no parallels need to be drawn as Richard Denny’s works ooze rawness, depth, meaning and character and illustrate that the map can in fact make the territory speak.

MORGAN CAMPBELL