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Dick Frizzell: Selected Paintings 1981 - 2009 (2011)


Sat 20 Aug 2011, 10:00am–6:00pm
Sun 21 Aug 2011, 10:00am–6:00pm
Mon 22 Aug 2011, 10:00am–6:00pm
Tue 23 Aug 2011, 10:00am–6:00pm
Wed 24 Aug 2011, 10:00am–6:00pm

Where: Milford Galleries Queenstown, 9a Earl Street, Queenstown

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Related Artists:

Listed by: Milford Galleries

Dick Frizzell is without doubt one of the most influential artists working in NZ today. This collection of paintings, spanning 30 years of his practice, illustrates the depth & breadth of his oeuvre, as well as revealing the common threads that link them. While we are asked to work in order to see the continuum that links ‘Backyard Painting (Detail) [Axe]’ with ‘Down by the Lake’ or ‘Egyptian Style Tiki’, the subtlety with which Frizzell utilises his considerable talents to link and cross-link his paintings becomes obvious upon closer observation.

Frizzell is acutely aware of the cultural cross-references he employs & is willing to dip into a range of methods to draw the viewer’s attention to the issues that underlie his work. In ‘Duelling Barrows’ (1998), the realistic depiction of the utilitarian (proletarian?) wheelbarrow is placed on a colour field rather than a lawn & is further elevated by its proximity to a landscape that bears the stylistic hallmarks of the Fauves: thick outlines, saturated palette, stylised forms. Frizzell deliberately juxtaposes the everyday object & the art reference to create tension & vigour in the triptych, confronting the viewer with the age-old question, 'yes – but is it art?'

This same tension occurs with Frizzell’s use of recognised art genres: the still life, the landscape, the portrait, the nude. As a landscape painting, ‘Burnt Stump’ encompasses multiple painterly techniques; a delicately worked copse of trees would not be out of place in a painting by Turner, but the energetic daubs of green in the foreground & the starkness of the stump, rendered in rich blacks & browns, owe more to the painters of the early twentieth century. Rich with commentaries, Frizzell plays with the landscape genre, questioning the traditional view of art’s history. He renders the Kiwi vernacular in oils-the viewer is literally ‘on this side of the black stump’ & the stump’s central dominance in the work necessitates consideration about issues of land use, agriculture & the environment.

Similarly multi-layered & literally turning its back on traditional portraiture, ‘Down by the Lake’ eschews the face & gaze of the sitter for Frizzell’s image of the archetypal Kiwi bloke: one who works with his body, who is physically bowed down &, one imagines, who is little concerned with the art world. Despite this, we cannot help but read the artist’s coded cultural references to the idea of an Antipodean Atlas weighed down by the weight of the world, or to a southern saviour entering a baptismal lake, or indeed to that other archetypal man, Adam, after being cast out of Eden. Frizzell is acutely aware of the power of these art historical tropes & intentionally invites questions about their relationship to the subjects of his paintings.

Nowhere in this collection is the artist’s interest in the power of the image & its manipulation more evident than in ‘Egyptian Style Tiki’ & ‘Ochre Tiki’. From their first outing in a landmark 1992 exhibition, Frizzell’s series of tiki works turned the NZ art world on its head. As a Pakeha reconfiguring a Maori cultural icon, Frizzell instigated a torrent of political, cultural & social debate that changed the way NZ looked at its art traditions. Painting tiki in the style of the ‘greats’ - Miro, Picasso, Braque - he engendered discussions about cultural (mis)appropriation, bicultural cross-fertilisations, art as design & the politicisation of NZ art. It was crucial that these issues began to be addressed & Frizzell continues to do this.

Given the rapid & complex societal change that has occurred in NZ over the last thirty years, the questions of Kiwi identity, culture, environment, & art are ever relevant. As a practising artist, Dick Frizzell is firmly ensconced in a role that asks him to query, to needle, to invent, to reflect. That he still performs this role with dedication & assurance underscores Frizzell’s commitment to his art, his ideas & his environment, & we are much the richer for it.