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the Artist

Barry Ross Smith is a visual artist born in Kamo, Northland, New Zealand. He initially trained as a sign writer before taking his O.E (Overseas Experience) in London working as, amongst many other things, a commercial artist. 

He returned home to raise a family and is a proud father of two daughters. Barry has been painting for over 25 years, had many solo shows with a long exhibition history. His works feature in public, private and corporate collections across New Zealand, Australia, Europe, North America and Asia.

The island series depict entanglements on isolated islands; representations of  the tension between our need to exploit the natural environment and livestock to make a home, against our obligation for the conservation and preservation of native forests and wildlife for its own survival. They can be viewed as theatrical tableau; a reflective space which highlight mankind’s complex relationship with the land, flora, fauna and all set against the encompassing endless ocean. 

I have collected this small piece of text and am no longer sure as to where I came across it, or if perhaps I wrote it myself. I tend to write small phrases down on scraps of paper, sketches or my iPad, something interesting heard or read. I usually try to ascribe the author at the moment of composition - but in this case I didn’t and the genesis of this text is lost.. nevertheless the words are a good response as to why painting is inspirational for me:


“…the idea behind a particular painting is not visible in the painting, in the same way an idea is not visible to the eye. The eye can see what the picture represents, but what it represents are the things that result from the process of thinking. Ideas are mental”


If this was lifted from a book; thanks be to the author. I have always felt that painting is a conceptual process; beginning with an idea long before the brush and paint are applied to canvas. My work is surreal, whimsical and full of  fiction -  because my mind is. I attempt to convey empirical experience, not by a visual relationship to the real world, but by attempting to create perceptual signals within a painting that convey my idea of our relationship to ourselves to each other and to the world, and these begin in the subconscious and the mind.

Strong influences in my life have been Rosalie Smith, who was the first to really encourage me when I began dabbling with my paints at a young age, Charlie Rose, Ron Elliott and Mark Tamagni who each gave me more to think about than what I could see with my own eyes and Leanne, my wife, a constant muse and commenter upon my work as it manifests in my head as well as the studio. Without her support, conversation and questioning,  I could not have sustained my practice and my misguided thoughts would have won out long ago.

paint by numbers self portrait

The Master's Apprentice - info about this piece is in The Artist as Model

my work book called The Black Arts book

"Creating new ideas is intuitive, it means not knowing what you're looking for

-  but knowing when you see it"

I feel a pervasive emotion surrounding some locations and/or imagery. It's like a nostalgic resonance, like a lingering remembered connection (yet often of unknown places),  rich with fresh potential. This is my creative arena - by inhabiting these spaces and imagery when they present themselves and playing/thinking/feeling within them. Ideas materialize, almost pre-conceived, full and rich. My aim is to capture some of these chimera and examine them within a painted space..

sketch page of animals

Sea Monster - Mixed Media on paper


Once I have pages of rough preliminary ideas some get developed as larger charcoal and acrylic sketches and drawings to progress the seed a little further. These are useful in order to realize the composition, the contents possible interpretations (which can stimulate further ideas) and how the finished painting might be tackled.


This phase is usually accompanied by a few days of ‘mind painting’ where various strategies to accomplish the final work are run thru mentally. While out driving, walking or before fully waking - I imagine beginning the painting and the application of paint layers to try different scenarios to better serve the concept, or expand upon it, to incorporate other elements. Like cooking a meal, once you are familiar with your ingredients you can conceptualize the final outcome, and I have been painting long enough now that this stage can be crucial to starting in the right direction with a work. By exhausting other alternative paint application ideas in my mind first I can decide upon the right recipe to proceed with.


A painting in the studio can take weeks to many months to complete - starting from building up the initial expressive transparent layers to the more opaque and thoughtful final strokes. As you’re painting, you’re holding the spirit of  the idea in your head, attempting to render that cerebral concept in the slippery materiality of pigment.

It is the intensity of painting that with each stroke you make on the canvas you obscure the stroke below. The equilibrium  between concealing and/or revealing brushstrokes creates an anxiety between what is presented and what is hidden from view - a  painting is an intricate accumulation of these small decisions. From the complete expressive freedom of a blank canvas right up until the final stroke of an artwork, all choices you make coalesce to reveal something about yourself, your character and your mind.

The painting process is resolving the unresolved until no further aspects stand out as in need of attention. The mindful chaos becomes ordered and resolved but often, it is in the rendering of a mind’s idea that something of its purity is lost - you can never surpass nor even match the quality of the mind's eye.

The Studio

New work usually begins with a few sessions in the studio surrounded by my books, an iPad and a charcoal, pencil or brush in hand. Often days go by sketching, researching concepts, procrastinating, daydreaming and drinking black coffee.

I collect these musings in black arts books which hold the inkling of concepts to be developed into new paintings.. they are drawn in a rough shorthand stick-figure manner - a doctors scroll decipherable only to myself, but each holds the nucleus of the new painting and ideas can often combine and manifest, over several pages, into a another concept on a new page.

Exhibition History


  • Upcoming - Works on Paper  (group exhibition)


  • INDEX - Gallery 138  (group exhibition)

  • Samsung Studio takeover - New Zealand wide Samsung locations (collabration)



  • Pretty Invaders - Spencer on Byron (solo exhibition)



  • TENT - Foenander Gallery (group exhibition)


  • Island Nation - Foenander Gallery  (solo show)

  • Semicolon - Unlimited Potential Real Estate, Herne Bay  & Foenander Gallery (group exhibition)


  • Pocket Edition - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • For the Birds - Foenander Gallery  (solo show)

  • Drawings and Works on Paper - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Small Works Salon - NKB Gallery  (group exhibition)


  • Lands End - NKB Gallery  (solo show)

  • Pocket Edition - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Animals - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors - NKB Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Paper  - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)


  • Archipelago - NKB Gallery  (solo show)

  • Estranged - Depot Artspace.  (group exhibition)

  • MAGS Fine Art Show - Mount Albert Grammar School  (fundraising exhibition)

  • Pocket Edition - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Drawings - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Artist's Self Portraits - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • 40th RSM Plunket Art Show - Aigantighe Art Gallery Gallery  (charity exhibition)


  • Water & Oil - NKB Gallery  (solo show)

  • A Day on the Farm - Waiheke Island Gallery (group exhibition)

  • Choc-a-bloc - Auckland Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Member's Show - NorthArt Gallery  (group exhibition)

  • Landscape Without Birds - 100 Days Project​


  • Life.Still - 100 Days Project

  • Mairangi Arts Centre - 1st Prize for Painting (Art Award)

  • Kiwiana Christmas - Waiheke Art Gallery (group exhibition)

  • Tangled Up In Blue - NKB Gallery (group exhibition)

  • Autumn Collection -  Parnell Gallery (group exhibition)


  • 300 x 300 x 300 - 300 x 300 x 300 (group exhibition)

  • Art Of Courage - Longview Gallery  (charity exhibition)

  • The Figure in art - Uxbridge Creative Centre (group exhibition)

  • 10 Years -   The Artist's Room  (group exhibition)

  • Adam Portrait Award -   New Zealand Portrait Gallery  (finalist - people's choice)

  • Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Award -   Whakatāne Exhibition Centre  (finalist)

  • RDNZ -   Percy Thomson Gallery  (group exhibition)


  • 100 Days Project, Britomart, Auckland group exhibition Treasured Art, Auction and Sale, Taupo

  • 5 years on, NKB Gallery, Auckland (group exhibition) MENAGERIE, The Artist's Room, Dunedin (group exhibition)


  • Waiheke Heats Up!, Waiheke Art Gallery, Waiheke Island, (group exhibition)


  • Newbies, Recent Graduates 2011. Corbans Estate Arts Centre, Auckland. curated exhibition

  • Pure Gold, 50th Anniversary group show. Harrison's Gallery, Tauranga (group exhibition) Best of New Zealand, Harrison's Gallery Tauranga

  • Everyday Fictions Whitecliffe College of Arts, Auckland. (MFA degree show)

  • Completed Master of Fine Arts degree. Whitecliffe College of Arts, Auckland.

private property on a deck in front of a villa

Private Property

91 x 91 cm, oil on board, 2007, sold

Part of my exploration into my masculine identity is to illustrate the constructed barriers of my self-protection. This self-portrait both invites and repels; the door is open but it is I that decides who may pass.

worn facade of a shed with figure partly emerging


91 x 91 cm, oil on board, 2007, sold

Part of my exploration into my masculine identity is to illustrate the constructed barriers of my self-protection. This self-portrait both invites and repels; the door is open but it is I that decides who may pass.

paint by numbers self portrait

Man of Steel 

oil on steel with laser-cut corten, 2007, sold

This work was created by drawing an outline shape and having it laser-cut from steel and (the coat) corten steel.  The figure is prepared steel painted with oils and the corten coat was roughy sanded and splashed with water to begin the oxidization process, Containers are made from corten,  which was developed to eliminate the need for painting as the steel surface  oxidizes, halting the rusting process below. The tarnished look pictured was created at the conception of the work, it will have rusted much more by now.  A theme of my early work was the exterior dressings of masculinity of the New Zealand male (The title is ironic).

The Master's Apprentice

70 x 70cm, oil and enamel on board

A self portrait paying homage to the artists that instructed me with their practice, and the masterpiece creations they produced. The concept is that of a paint by numbers with the numbers being substituted with the name of an artist that I admire. The title describes the process of learning from studying the works of contemporary artists as well as the great artists of history.

pieces of me, a self portrait in 100 pieces

Me in Pieces

18 x 18 cm x 100, mixed media on 100 individual boards, 2013

Part of my 100 Days Project.

Have a look at the full process of the project Project, select 2013 100 Days Project and at the bottom of the article  use the slider to construct and/or deconstruct each days progress.

The Artist as Model

Paintings where the likeness of the artwork was myself. This is often due to a lack of an available model, but with these particular works the 'self' in the portrait is an attempt to capture a little character study of myself with the content and context. To express my inner self as well as my outward appearance. 

corten steel laser cut outline of the artist as a farmer
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