Sunday, January 31, 2016

Landscapes of the Mind

“I am letting the energy control me.
Dale Frank

The Australian Dale Frank is arguably the most literate of his country’s artists whose work’s titles have grown from narrative inspired names for his abstract paintings into short stories in their own right.

Like his 2005 painting (see above) I was sent off to find an 18th century diamond brooch, dressed in a donkey jacket and cement-dusted workman’s boots. He understood the past, whereas today’s brilliant butterflies who dine out talk only about the new and know only about the future of their art portfolio’s pricing structure. Their lead shoes are very much in need in the light gravity-less atmosphere.

It is from a series of experimental works that Frank began in the 1990’s using varnish, pigment and gravity along with additives like lighter fluid and turpentine to create his best known works.
About which the art critic Ashley Crawford has said “Despite the ultra-literal titles, these works were anything but; they were actually a carefully orchestrated maelstrom of colorful, viscous varnish – violent and cathartic, and often very beautiful.”

At the age of 16 Frank was awarded the Red Cross Art Prize and three years later he succumbed to the antipodean cultural cringe and headed off to Europe and the United States to successfully pursue an artistic career. After a decade fliting about overseas Frank developed an aversion to flying and returned to Australia to permanently settle in rural Queensland.

His oeuvre was wide ranging including performance, drawing, painting, photography and interactive installations before settling on his ‘Varnish’ paintings. Paintings that are inspired by the Australian landscape seen through a 21st Century urban filter that turns them into landscapes of the mind.

As he told Melbourne’s Age Newspaper in 2003 "If people broadened their perceptions of what landscape is, and the history of Australian landscape painting, they would be able to embrace what is, on the surface, non-representational art as landscape instantaneously. To the average person, landscape is non-representational, it is an abstract concept… Viewing the landscape from the freeway is a product of the need to get from A to B. The work over the last two years is non-representational, is abstract, is landscape. The titles in this show refer to specific locations, incidences and journeys in the vicinity and environment in which I live… The colors are not the 'wide brown land'. The colors are the extreme desperation and boredom of passing down the Warrego Highway, passing the Red Elephant Fruit Barn, passing Schultz's Highway Meat Tavern, the Plainlands Welcome Hotel - the landscape that Australians are familiar with. Not the suburban or city landscape, and also not the country landscape. It's none of the actual definitions of a genre."

Frank’s current exhibition Sabco Peroxide is on show at Sydney’s Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery until the 13th of February.

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