Dale Frank’s titles flow, ripple, swirl, shine and bleed just as much as his pigmented varnish does. “Flying Solo…” is painting becoming writing.
What’s he doing with these long, complex, descriptive titles? Frank’s gesture is akin to saying, “Look, this painting only makes sense if it kick-starts your imagination.” He didn’t say that, I’m putting words into his mouth. But he did say "I wouldn't say I'm comfortable anywhere. Dissatisfaction is an element continually driving the work – that need for not being content with what you've got." Isn’t dissatisfaction one of the primal, pulsing heart-beats of the imagination? Mind: take me someplace else.
Australia-based Dale Frank (b.1959) has been exhibiting since the mid 1970s when he was also experimenting with performance art. His distinguished achievements include being selected for the Aperto section of the Venice Biennale in 1984 and for the 8th Biennale of Sydney; a major solo retrospective at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2000; and winning The Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize. His work is in major collections including the Australian National Gallery; the Guggenheim Museum (NY); and the Kunsthalle (Zurich).
Since the 1990s his paintings are created by pouring pigmented varnish onto the horizontal canvas, where luminous pools immediately begin to resist and coalesce. As further layers are added, the angle and direction of the varnish flows are controlled by tilting the canvas slightly, allowing the paint to swirl, eddy and slide until the varnish is set. “It is a totally hands on and cerebral way of painting,” declares Frank, which has its roots in performance, and is just as intense, as there is no going back once the varnish starts pouring.
Frank hates flying. Therefore when travelling inter-state his preference is to drive, distracted by what he calls an “agenda out the car window”: the landscape. His landscapes are never a particular vista, but some idea containing light, colour, and space. These landscapes are a distraction; and for Frank they seem to be what’s tacked onto the main event which is “the extreme desperation and boredom” of the task of getting from A to B.
For Frank the notion of landscape (made explicit in his titles) is also “an agenda for the artist to actually have a connection with the audience.” So here we have it: Frank’s title throws some suggestive lines our way in the hope we will variously imagine, remember, feel and desire. There are tantalising allusions to the fear or pleasure of flying; the glow of dawn skies; the scented gloss of basting juices; whatever the idea of “truth” conjures up for us (let alone “Basting the Truth”); and the chance to trip over something entirely carnal.
Dale Frank, Flying Solo Dawns Basting the Truth/Milfs and Dilfs waiting 4 U Auckland Landscape, 2004, varnish on canvas, 2000 x 2600mm
Previously published in Important Paintings and Sculpture including the Odyssey Group Collection, 30 July 2009, Art+Object 21st Century Auction House, Auckland.