Concerned with how the institutional British social system leaves no room for those on the periphery of society, Small's portraits reminds viewers of the importance of humanity. It comes as no surprise that his raw works have won the Villiers David Art Prize and been nominated for the BP Portrait Award.
His haunting works on metal pull the invisible from the city crowds. In a world obsessed with likes and followers on social media, Small's rough-cut and ragged works offer something real. In art history, portraiture has long been associated with the rich or famous, those who can afford to be painted and those who people want to look at. Instead, Small's oeuvre shakes up history by offering diverse subjects.
Small finds his sitters by taking to the streets of London with a video camera, to capture his anonymous sitters in their world. In the same place he finds his subjects, Small also finds the materials for his work which includes anything found on the street, from fridges and other household appliances to wrecked cars.
Continuing his theme of reusing materials from the city, Small often works with paint that has been thrown away by others, meaning his works are in variety of mediums including household paint and oils. Like his subjects, the physical elements of his works are a product of the urban environment, consisting of pieces that society has disregarded.
The new art works incorporate the fluid, colourful, abstracted faces of our youth with geometric designs that merge from the background composition into the portraits.
The complexity and rigidness of these patterns and shapes representing that of the city environments that surrounds each of the subjects, contrasting and at the same time, informing and becoming elements of what makes them who they are as people.