Menzies Art Brands



The work of Dale Frank is difficult to place in any one category, as it is as much a performance as it is painting. Franks early practice involved performance-based work; a notable example of this took place in Italy in the late 1970s, where viewers entering the gallery were presented with Franks legs and leather shoes dangling from a hatch in the ceiling. Frank also later created a disco for the opening night of his 1995 exhibition Dale, Im Only Dancing, at Rosyln Oxley9 gallery in Sydney, complete with lights, a fog machine, and a DJ. What connects these earlier works to the later paintings of Frank, is the exchange between the artists performance and the participation of the viewer.

Franks work is a battleground, a staged clash between his own practice, and accepted artistic movements. Frank chooses not to conform to one artistic movement, constantly breaking the rules and perhaps hinting at his own subversion of twentieth century history of art.1 In an interview coinciding with the MCA exhibition, Dale Frank: Ecstasy 2000, Frank staunchly refutes the idea that his work pays homage to art of the past, suggesting that to find familiar formal elements in the work is purely cosmetic.2 Instead, Frank embodies a sense of stylistic freedom, continuously exploring the nature of art itself and its relationship to reality; to real objects and situations, and the time in which it was made.3

Painting for Frank is a performance that allows for a spirit of experimentation. The present work uses a combination of powdered and liquid pigments encased in varnish, mixed before being thrown across a flat canvas. This is where the performance takes shape. Frank works edge to edge, dropping pigments from above, dragging them across the surface and physically lifting the support to initiate movement. Different paint temperatures and time ratios effect the finished work, providing an overarching structure. The application of the varnish appears erratic, unplanned, and fluid, causing paintings to be void of the artist and to exist as separate living entities.

The present work radiates playfulness and the joy of investigation. Layers of lollypop pink glisten over a vivid wash of cerulean and collide with olive green slips that encase a deep sapphire blue puddle in the lower section of the work. The direction of the drips and glossy pools of varnish momentarily disarm the viewer as they make sense of the point of gravity within the work. Too much colour and texture suddenly cohere in an elegant balance; a recognisable gesture begins to form and then is on the move again. This is the pleasure of Franks work; the internal dynamism raises questions, but rewards with sustained and repeated engagement.

The response to Franks work is complicated by his choice of titles. Often lengthy and unrelated to the work at hand, they allow Frank to rebuke the traditional constraints of art whilst adding a performative layer. Frank has commented on his titles saying, they are parallel to the paintings; they have the same connection to society as the paintings do people read into them and induce associations that I could not dream of. You cannot read into them; it is a free-form situation just like the paintings.4

Interactive performance remains at the forefront of Franks work. The present work is an important example of Franks expansive growth that entices the viewer, allowing them to make their own interpretation of the work.



1. Magon, J., Dale Frank, Craftsman House BVI Ltd., Sydney, 1992, p.45
2. Cramer, S., Dale Frank: Ecstasy (Twenty Years of Painting), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2000, p.14
3. Ibid., p.3
4. Cramer, S., Dale Frank: Ecstasy (Twenty Years of Painting), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2000, p.14

Clementine Retallack














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