Exhibitions Auckland


A retrospective by an artist is a special event. It allows (even if it is somewhat censored) the public an over-all view of an artist's progression to date in terms of maturity and direction. Retrospectives assist in qualifying and establishing the artist's present work. If we are allowed a look into the sequence of ideas and techniques which have produced a current style we are better equipped not only to comprehend that present style, but also to form a comprehensive picture of the artist's work as a complete and continuous body. The artistic progression of a fertile imagination and expanding technical virtuosity observable in a good retrospective can be a rewarding experience for the viewer. In this respect (despite the apparent short time-span of the retrospective section) Dick Frizzell's exhibition at the Barry Lett Galleries was no exception.

Interior Self Portrait 1977
enamel on board
(Barry Lett Galleries) 500 x 500 mm.

Frizzell's forty-four recent paintings and works on paper were introduced by a retrospective of eighteen works in the gallery's foyer space. From these paintings the viewer was able to follow Frizzell's progression from such exploratory cubist paintings as Cubist Still Life with Illusive L into his more mature Pop orientated style.

The consolidation of these two stylistic influences upon Frizzell can be seen in the painting entitled Cubist Still Life with Hulk Cover. Here Frizzell has enlarged and brightened the cubist palette, charging the intensities in a way which heralds his recent, mature enamel paintings. The employment of larger, more expressive outlines and brushwork within the loosely-based cubist composition also relates to Frizzell's present work; while the introduction of the comic book cover acts as a bridge from cubist imagery into Pop and as a compositional device which strengthens the two dimensional quality of the work.

Oh Boy! Rich Tin Mine is... Aaagh! 1977
enamel on board, 564 x 561 mm.

Throughout Frizzell's work there is an insistence upon retaining the two-dimensional attitude. This trait seems to stem from his early cubist influence, and directly from his present choice of subjects (commercial food labels and comic strips) which by their nature are flat. Frizzell further intensifies the two dimensionality of his work by the application of broad colour-fields, which introduce a silhouette effect into the depicted isolated objects. In addition, the artist's love for lettering and the distribution of numbers contribute to the general appearance of flatness.

Frizzell is a painter with a quick mind who enjoys introducing literal ideas and puns. In this area he excels. Ambiguities fly wildly from title to imagery. His use of comic-strip-style figures and compositional devices accent the literal intent. With tongue in cheek pathos he presents the painting Rich Boy Tin Mine - a type of comic book re-synthesis of Robert Capa's photograph of a Spanish soldier at the instant of his death. Frizzell's pigment camera has captured in full head composition a native caught short in his last soliloquy 'Oh Boy! Rich Tin Mine Is... Aaagh!' So exit a pawn in the game of greed. But in Frizzell the obvious is necklaced in jewels of nuance. The artist's title for the work, Death of a Poet, could illustrate a type of visual exorcism from the influences of Lichtenstein - Rich-Tin-Mine or Licht-En-Stein? Either way, Frizzell has succeeded in checkmating.

Traditional Cubist
Still Life with Errant L (and Lighter)

oil on board
(collection of Warren Tippett)

To a large extent, Frizzell brutalizes the surface area of his paintings, employing all types of incisions and scraping - gouging into wet or dry areas in order to reveal underpainted lettering or subtle movements of colour. He is not a timid painter. His compositions are hacked out of a jungle of stimuli, weeding and planting areas of colour and line as he goes. Heavily-outlined objects wrestle with backgrounds of overpainted areas of enamel. The thick, shiny surface properties of the enamel paint Frizzell employs lend themselves perfectly to the depiction of fish bodies and sections in his series based upon variations of fish tin labels. Mackerels and tunas gleam in their enamel mottled coats.

Dick Frizzell's seven panelled 'Life Goes On' series was exhibited at the Peter Webb Galleries concurrently with the Lett's exhibition. The silk-screened images of commercial objects and people fortified by Frizzell's use of symbolic colour overpainting could be read as an allegory to the life cycle. In the Existence panel, a half-toned Bob Dylan blew his harmonica while a close-up kissing couple nestled beside a 'Sure-to-Rise' product label. Sexual implications were introduced into the Raven panel through the depiction of coiled rubber hoses and the fetishes associated with such items as underpants. From birth to death the life cycle was presented through images of popular idols, washing machines, and wedding pictures.

Screen Stars Wedding Game for Two
oil on board
(Barry Lett Galleries)

Frizzell is a fine draftsman as well as a painter able expertly to manipulate the possibilities of enamel paint: His chosen subjects taken from the commercial and illustrative side of life derive from his love of objects and their suggestive powers. As long as there is a commercial world to draw inspiration from, Frizzell will continue to paint.