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April 23, 2007 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

Richard Small

Quimzy Gallery
14 Leeds Street
April 17 onwards

Richard Small (former guitarist and vocalist from rock band Breathe) is exhibiting his latest works at Quimzy Gallery, which is tucked down Leeds Street. Doubling as Café Lala, it is the only gallery in town that happens to have a toilet door in the main gallery area. This is a quirky thing, but it is really handy during the opening night of an exhibition.

Richard Small’s work in this, his second public art exhibition, are also very quirky.

Laid back and exuding an air of casual confidence, he mentioned how he got into doing the whole painting thing while traveling through South East Asia for four months, where he got inspired to start painting more. A friend’s neighbour really liked a picture he had just painted and suggested the he exhibit his works. A jack of all trades in terms of creativity, painting had been a hobby of his, but he never imagined that he would be able to show off his art in a gallery setting.

One quirky piece I liked was “Day at the Beach” which is a blue painting of close-up faces at a beach looking down. Characters with their heads leaning down are a recurring theme in a lot of his works and he told me that his was a kind of self-obsession: “My head’s huge, I’ve got a huge cranium that’s 63cm round. When I was born I had to go to Plunket every week because my head was so huge. So I think what’s going on is I’m having so much trouble holding up my head in these pictures. How would you like to go like this all the time? Bendy, bendy…”

Another good one was “Lessons,” showing the torso of a rocker complete with guitar and guitar tabs around it. This definitely fits in with Small’s musical background and his new musical preoccupation: getting back to basics by strumming his guitar and writing new music in the confines of his bedroom.

I asked Small if there was any underlying philosophy to his paintings or whether there was a certain process he went through. He mentioned that he just likes bright colours and likes to paint with no preconceived idea or plan of how it will all turn out. There were some interesting results, some of which had some definite archetypes. One of his works has a Kiwi couple standing in their back yard American Gothic style which show the typicality of many Kiwis’ lack of style and pretense.

These works weren’t exactly the crème de la crème of visual art and Small, like any artist, was worried I would do a negative review, but I really like his style and his art. The strengths of his paintings are the level of quirkiness and the musical influences that he allows to come through.

Despite being casual with his painting, it was evident that there is some substance there and some deeper things going on – these be subconscious and unintentional, but they are still highly creative.

Small’s weaknesses are a lack of direction or cohesiveness in his painting, but in his defence, he is just starting out on the path of the visual arts and you need to learn how to walk before you run. To paint as well as he is currently doing, and with the improvement he has made in only six months since his first exhibition, is pretty impressive. Music started out as just a hobby for him and he managed to do well at that; I am sure he can keep getting better and possibly carve a name out for himself as a painter if he wishes. There was one excellent painting that really showed promise, which happened to be hanging on the gallery’s brick pillar, demonstrating excellent experimentation with colours and brush strokes.

If you happen to be walking down that lane next to Hope Brothers that connects to Leeds Street, then you might want to pop into Quimzy and check out Small’s works which are full of character. Breathe was a really good band, and Richard Small has shown that he has creative talent also when he switches from guitar to paint brush. Six months ago his visual arts debut was like a really raw self produced EP. This time around, just like many musicians do with every album they produce, he has definitely laid down some pretty good tracks.


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