For many it was shock when quintessential Auckland painter Dick Frizzell packed up his Ponsonby studio and moved to the Hawkes Bay. Yet it was fuelled by recent Summer excursions over the past few years to the area and resulting exhibitions such as Welcome to the Sunny Hawkes Bay, Gow Langsford Gallery, 2001. For Frizzell it was a natural move – a return to his roots.
Frizzell’s new exhibition at Gow Langsford Gallery – The Pumpkin is a Red Herring - is a celebration of locality and a continuation of themes begun in his Please Keep Us Safe While We Sleep By The Fire exhibition at the Hawkes Bay Exhiibition Centre in late 2003.
“I call the new sign (Gate Series) paintings close-up landscapes...so close in fact that all you can see is the sign at the gate...and consequently they are paintings of flat things...like Jasper’s Flags...so-quite apart from being signs of life in the provinces they are extremely rich examples of paint LANGUAGE... And the other interesting thing is the constant play on illusion, where the accidental ‘process’ dribbles compete with actual dribbles copied from the source material...the interplay of rendered (copied) brush marks and actual brush marks!! If painting is the truth caught in a web of lies (to quote my mate Pablo)...just exactly what is the lie?” (Dick Frizzell, October 2004)
Writes arts critic Hamish Keith – “In our youth, before the motorways, we knew we had quit the city when after the used car yards and the raw subdivisions the roadside stalls appeared – fruit and fish in the north, vegetables and bags of spuds in the south – everyone will have there own nostalgic geography of produce. The hand-scrawled signs were a fixture in the landscape. Not a surprise perhaps in the land of Colin McCahon…..There is a raw graphic power to the original signs that provoked these works. Frizzell’s messages are subtler, closer to McCahon than Pukekohe market gardener, and he is clearly attracted to the possibility of a conversation between the two extremes of signs and signing involved….
It says something for Frizzell’s art and his love of paint, that he can make such powerful images out of what might to a smaller imagination seem unpromising raw material. He teases something much larger out of it. Paint is very much an obsession in all his work. Whatever the subject he patiently mines the vast possibilities for illusion out of it. The act of painting is central to what Frizzell is on about, but it is an interest that goes far beyond mere aesthetics or sensation – an interest that goes beyond play too.” (exhibition catalogue, Please Keep Us Safe While We Sleep By The Fire, Hawkes Bay Exhiibition Centre, 2003)
Frizzell’s new series of work is sure to challenge viewers and their notions of what high art is. In typical Frizzellian fashion, the artist has blurred the boundaries of high and low art and what should and shouldn’t be painted. Equally typical though is the sense of humour and overriding intelligence in these works.