David Risley – Painter


David Risley was born 1972, in a small town in England, Tamworth. Both of his parents worked in factories. As young, Risley was interested in reading, drawing and playing guitar. “I just kept doing that all the time, constantly. When I was 13 I went to my room and came out again when I was like 17…” 

Tekst: Gabrielle Ekecrantz / Foto: Amanda Eriksen

We met him in his colorful apartment in Vesterbro, surrounded by family, art(looots of art) and his little cute hairy friend Blinky Palermo, who (also) stole our hearts. David Risley is an artist, ex gallery owner and art entrepeneuer. In his own words “David Risley makes paintings, writes a bit, curates when he’s allowed, co-owns Chart art fair, teaches sometimes, ran a gallery for 20 years and did some other stuff too”

Kan være et billede af 5 personer, personer, der sidder og indendørs
Kan være et billede af hund og indendørs

Risley finished his Bachelor in Bath school of Fine Art in 1994. It was a very tough and formal fine arts course, which he thought was amazing. In Bath he could really get into the art and he met a lot of inspiring artists. When Risley finished his foundation, in 1997 – the day that princess Diana died – Risley moved to London, to Buffalo Green road

“If you were gonna be anywhere, that was the place.” 

To earn money whilst doing his art, Risley worked in an arts bookshop. He quickly convinced the owner that if given the chance, he could make it a part of the art world, and not just a bookshop. And so it went… The first show he did was with Richard Woods. The show caught much attention and lots of people came to see it. 

Ten years later, the global financial crisis hit, and at the same time Risley’s daughter Alba was born. His wife studied architecture in Copenhagen and they wanted a safe place for their daughter to grow up, so they decided to move to Copenhagen. Risley went from having an enormous space in London to a tiny place in Copenhagen.

Five years ago, Risley bought a big building in Sweden, near Älmhult.  As his interest in climate change grew, he started to work on a sustainability project. He closed his gallery and got obsessed with the climate crisis. The time before Risley closed his gallery was very stressful for him. He was just bouncing around, going to performance shows and meeting a lot of people constantly.  Artists used to call him all day long and he became David Risley Gallery, not just David Risley. With all that stuff going on, it was just too much. He closed his gallery, wrote an email and said “I’m done”. 

“I lost faith in art. I’ve always believed in art, music and football, but I lost faith in it.” 

Risley began to work with this sustainability project together with hundreds of people. Then the corona lockdown occurred, which killed the project completely. Hopefully there will be room for the project in then future.

Kan være et billede af 1 person og indendørs

We ask him if he has any good advice for us young people with dreams, and he gives us a very honest but clever message.

“Just look, look at everything and question everything. Don’t accept anything. All my favorite artists paint their kids, dogs, family… You can’t control meaning. I really focus on the paintings I care about, what I love.” 

David is currently doing exactly that. Painting his loved ones.

You can see the result in his upcoming solo exhibition “The River doesn´t Care” at Ekely.

Kan være en tegneserie
Illustration: Safia Nabiyar


Owner / Director David Risley Gallery Copenhagen (2010-2018). 

Co-founder and co-owner of Chart Art Fair. 

Owner / Director David Risley Gallery, London (2002-2010)

Co-founder Zoo Art Fair, London (2004). 

Founding co-curator of Bloomberg Space, London (2002-2005). 

Zwemmer Gallery. Director (2000 – 2002).

He continues to write, curate and develop projects with artists. 

He is developing (Kollektiv) a sustainability network for public facing institutions

Solo shows

Our House. Vesterbrogade 77. Copenhagen. 2020 

Moldy Box of Vanilla Wafers. 00-LA. Los Angeles. 2017.

The River doesn´t Care. Ekely 2021

Group shows

PROJECT PAPYROPHILIA. Charlie Smith Gallery. London. (online). 2020. 

Quarantine Quotidian: Cristin Tierney Gallery, NYC. 2020

(Raiding the Cupboard, Stocking Up and Late Capitalist Shopping Habits. Sept. 2020. Marking Time. Oct 2020

Reading the Signs and Staring at Screens. Nov 2020).

FROM THE OTHER SIDE. Hangmen Projects. Stockholm. Sweden. 2019.

Velvet Ropes. House of Vans. London 2019.

Malevolent Eldrich Skreeching. Attercliffe. Sheffield Uk. 2018.

GIFC. Soulland. Copenhagen. 2018

River Deep Mountain High. Gallery Westland Place. London. 1998.

Selected writing – essays and interviews.

Mamma Andersson. Let’s Boogie. 2020.

Ditte Ejlerskov & Eva Marie Lindahl – Does Art History make books or do books make Art History? 2020

Mandy El Sayegh. David Sylvester interviews Mandy El Sayegh. 2020.

Margrét H. Blöndal. The Drawing Enters The Paper. 2020.

Pipilotti Rist. Everything Flows. Catalogue essay. Louisiana Museum. Denmark. 2019.

A Diamond is a Square too. Anna Bjerger, An Introductory Guide Catalogue essay. 2019. Peter Schuyff. Exhibition. Essay. 2018.

Henry Hudson. Reinventing the Wheel. Exhibition catalogue text, Sotheby’s S2. 2015.


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