Dale Richards was offered his first solo show, when he was sixteen years old, in Devonport’s The Little Gallery owned by Jean Thomas who supported a number of emerging artists from the NW Coast area. According to a couple of Dale’s former high school classmates; he was always a very good artist, always doing different work to anyone else in the class.
Dale won the Owen Tooth Memorial residency and travel grant to France in 1974.The exposure to French culture and art was a huge inspirational lift to the young painter with great European artists work being easily accessible.After returning to Sydney and doing odd jobs, but always painting, Dale moved to Berlin in 1982 spending almost a year there, had a solo show at a renowned commercial experimental art space – Gallery Dia.
Travelled through Europe for a while eventually returning to Sydney after a stint in New York and held a solo show at the Rex Irwin Gallery, Sydney.Dale shared studio space with numerous artists including Gary Shead who regards Dale as a very good painter. Gary told me years ago ‘Why isn’t he up here [Sydney], I didn’t make it till I was fifty.’
As Taswegians do, Dale returned home periodically.Fortuitously he came to Hobart for a visit in late 1992 to catch up with friends and family.We first met in summer 1993, when the gallery was at 49 Salamanca Place.I recall vividly my assistant at the time, Dolla Merrillees, telling me in an indignant tone “there was an artist who left these photographs – and he helped himself to a beer from the fridge!!”I liked the images and we still keep beer in the fridge.
We finally met and I saw his paintings first hand – very impressed; raw and compelling from the strip shows in the cross, to 19th c imagery of Punch in the fairground – twenty years on we are still good mates, I am still his sole dealer, biggest fan and harshest critic (on occasion).
Despard Gallery first exhibited his paintings in 1993; the exhibition was titled ‘The incoming Tide’.Since returning to Tasmania twenty years ago, Dale has lived and painted in the Opossum Bay and South Arm area, about 40 minutes out of Hobart, overlooking the Derwent.
I have exhibited Dale’s paintings in no less than fifteen exhibitions in the US, Sydney and Melbourne, from contemporary art shows, to antique fairs, all attracting a diverse range of people to his art. His reticence in talking about his work to any one can be frustrating at times, especially the art media. Some artists are media driven and good publicists DR is quite the opposite really just wanting to make good pictures and for them to find a good home.
Dream-like surreal images, Dale has always been a figurative artist, his characters are occasionally melancholic, but always compelling. I recall overhearing two visiting physiologists discussing Dale’s work in the gallery, “There’s a case study in this bloke.”