Geometry & Portraiture: Billy Riley Explains his Visual Narrative

In one sentence describe what you do.

I paint a mix of subjects: geometric shapes and portraits.

Explain your technique.

With my geometric work I sketch it out and once I am happy with the shapes I fill them with colour.

What is it about geometry which appeal to you?

I have always liked it, the on/off binary coded nature of it. That’s a square, okay there is not much going on, but coupled with different squares of varying sizes and colours, something starts to come to you.

Explain your portraiture.

Portraits are what I fell in love with about art, when I was growing up I was always reading comics, and I always loved the images. As I was exposed to more and more art I saw classical paintings and how they were able to capture such depth. I thought I would try it, and I feel like I’m getting better at it.

And in some of your works you combine both portraiture and geometry.

Yes, one of my first ideas on becoming an artist was an image of a girl’s face with loads of squares over it, since then that has always been my end target. Though to truly be able to mix both of them I have to understand them as separate entities and only then blend them together.

Do you have any artists which inspire you?

I have always liked people who are willing to go a bit macabre, push boundaries. The comic artist Jim Lee, who designed the X-Men which I loved as a kid, other than that classical paintings, but I am terrible with names.

What has been the most pivotal moment in your art career so far?

I think moving into my studio at Make Space and also when I first bought my drawing table which I have at home, because at the time it cost all of the limited money that I had; it was a commitment.

Going back to the start, why be an artist?

I have Dyslexia, so I really struggled reading books as a kid and that created a boundary people would all be reading the Harry Potter books and I was there barely able to read the title. I think that is why sight became my predominant sense. That’s why I like comics and why I love to paint and show people who I am through visual story telling.

How do you hope to develop your art over the next few years?

I want improve my technique, I think most artists want to do that, if an artist doesn’t seek to do that they should just quit.

Do you mean in your ideas or in your method?

Both; I have lots of ideas but sometimes I have no idea how they would work, so they go on the back burner. In a few years’ time I would like to getting involved in a lot more shows, putting on some shows myself. I also want to bridge the gap between artists and non-artists, a lot of regular people think art is a posh thing, but anyone can pick up a pen and draw, or a brush and paint. That’s why I like the street art movement; anyone can get a tin of paint and just go for it. I would like to promote the idea that anyone can do it, don’t worry about a lack of formal education, you don’t have to have gone to uni!


Billy Is exhibiting works in Focus LDN's Winter Exhibition at The Menier Gallery, London Bridge. Open until Saturday 17th December 2016.