Auckland-based Richard Adams began exhibiting in 1982 and is known for compelling abstract paintings in oil on paper or on canvas, finely balanced, often with the surface pared back, scraped away to reveal hidden layers.
Adams’ new works have a richness informed not only by his music – he is one of New Zealand’s best known jazz musicians - but also a recent trip to Dubai, where he was inspired by the textures and aged surfaces, and fine colours from the subtle to the intense. In particular he was fascinated by the weathered paintwork on the dhows (boats) and how their history was exposed by a scratch or rubbed surface, revealing the colours of the boat’s earlier life.
On some boats, a sharp new white line, reminiscent of a plimsoll line, was painted along the side, starkly in contrast with the soft weathered paintwork beneath, creating an effect of ‘floating’ above the surface of the colours. This effect inspired Blue Interrupted, the major painting in this exhibition, as he sought to recreate that separation of dimension. He also explores this effect in Bastakia and Seek, two mid-sized canvasses (1.1m x 1.1m) available outside the exhibition.
Abra is the name for the local water taxis in Dubai, and the colours of these boats and their envrionment inspired a work with the intensity of the hot climate balanced against the weathered, almost verdigris, surface.
He sees himself as the guide rather than the master of the brush, and allows the painting to evolve as he works.
Richard Adams is well-known as the jazz violinist and frontman for the Nairobi Trio, NZ’s most popular jazz group, and naturally there’s a very musical rhythm in his work. The music and the painting inspire each other, he says, rather than existing in isolation. Although he has been painting for 20 years, it is in the last decade he has seriously begun to make his mark as a sought-after abstract painter with regular exhibitions in galleries both in New Zealand and overseas.
Richard Adams was born in London in 1957, and worked in film in the 1970s and 1980s in New Zealand. After publishing a book of poems and etchings in 1979, he began exhibiting his paintings in 1982 in Wellington. He has since exhibited in New York, Tokyo, Sydney, London, Dubai as well as around New Zealand in dealer galleries.
He co-founded the jazz ensemble The Nairobi Trio – one of New Zealand’s most popular jazz groups which continues to tour this country and overseas on a hectic schedule. However, since the late 1980s he has pursued his painting with increasing dedication and in the last seven years in particular has established a strong exhibition profile and following for his work among collectors, viewers and significant art publications.
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