The relationship between painting’s surface and its support is one of non-representation’s grand themes, involving as it does the incorporation of the space of the world into the space of the painting and vice versa, and in the work of several younger painters it has taken directions and forms for which there is no obvious direct precedent. James Richards’ version of the theme, on which he’s now been working for a little more than ten years, proceeds from what he describes as a wish to “complicate drawing”. One of the principles that join surface and support is line, the weave of the canvas below, drawing above, and Richards’ paintings work by making the one simultaneously serve as the other. Thread as support becomes line as movement through space, intensified as both material and movement by the addition of colour or wrapping more yarn around what’s already there. Elsewhere paint may be applied so that the surface is supporting the support, as these paintings are not constructed as straightforwardly as they might at first seem to be and there are bits that have been inserted that are not directly connected to the frame. Just as the thread is at once stuff and movement and tension and the other things that line signifies, the paint is both substance and space, a thick surface that is at the same time, since it’s always mixed with white, seen as being weightless. The relationship between surface and support is about the convergence between the material and the immaterial, considered as a visual event. By beginning with line as thread rather than inscription Richards has made that convergence visible in a way we haven’t seen before.