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  • Mar 06, 2017

Dale Frank in Hong Kong

Installation view of DALE FRANK’s solo exhibition at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, 2017. (Front) Warszawa, 2016, mixed white human hair on Perspex, 200 × 200 × 8 cm. Courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries. 

Entering Dale Frank’s solo exhibition at Pearl Lam Galleries in Hong Kong was comparable to stepping into a parallel universe where shapes are distorted and luminescent colors reign supreme. It was an alienating yet simultaneously engaging experience that clearly exemplified Frank’s own philosophy toward distancing himself from his works. Once completed, his sculptural paintings take on a life of its own, and Frank considers them completely independent of himself. He also believes that a “painting doesn’t have to speak,” a sentiment expressed in the exhibition’s catalogue. The viewer is not meant to look for profound meaning within his works, but instead, is encouraged to consider the works as they are.

Frank establishes a playful juxtaposition between the abstractness of his bold, large-scale creations and their bizarrely detailed titles. These works reject conventional artistic methods evidenced by the artist’s choice of medium. Frank replaces paint with glass, color resin, compression foam, plutonium power and even human hair, which in a way, makes him appear more like an alchemist than an artist. His preferred method is to create his compositions horizontally so as to allow him to better control the density of the medium.

DALE FRANK, A Nose Studies French Cheese at 3am, 2016, compression foam, varnish hardeners, and color resin on Perspex, 160 × 120 × 17 cm. Courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. 

For the 16 pieces in this exhibition, Frank abandoned the traditional canvas in favor of Perspex, which allowed further exploration into the sculptural potential of his practice. He uses edgy, unconventional materials that force us to question the intrinsic nature of painting, a technique most clearly seen in a collection of four works in the exhibition. One of these, for example, is humorously titled A Nose Studies French Cheese at 3am and Thick Curly Black Hair Pushed Out From His Shirt Collar Like a Well-Fluffed Paisley Cravat (all works 2016) and uses compression foam as the primary medium. Bulbous growths emerge from the work’s surface and are saturated in psychedelic pigments. Despite its grotesqueness, there is an equal appeal that makes it difficult for the viewer to look away. These works inhabit a realm somewhere between sculpture and painting, yet it does not feel as though they occupy our space, but rather that we are intruding in their space.

Installation view of DALE FRANK

Warszawa—the only work that occupied the main wall of the gallery—could be considered the artist’s most radical experiment. Here, Frank abandons pigment altogether and instead uses wigs made of real human hair, in various styles and shades of blonde, to cover the surface of the Perspex. This display within the exhibition bestowed Warszawa a monumental status, forcing the viewer to contemplate its radical existence. Whilst the work was inherently confronting, it was perhaps Frank’s way of offering viewers an insight into the future trajectory of his practice.  

In a separate space hung two works made of shattered glass in solidified liquid glass on Perspex: She Had the Habit of Lifting Her Skirt High Up to Win Most Arguments and She Continually Tried to Convince Everyone She was Jewish. Characteristic of Frank’s oeuvre, there appeared to be no correlation between the works’ titles and their ambiguous subject matter. Yet encountering them was a transportive experience; each had a glassy surface that created shimmering reflections on the gallery floor, reminiscent of the way light reflects on water, the effect caused the viewer to momentarily forget where they are.

In other works, Frank uses liquid glass to create mirrored surfaces punctuated by feverish strokes of fluorescent liquid resin. In His Homeless Eyes Left You Legless, the color markings appear to create a border around the work, offering an almost unobstructed view of the spectator as they stand before it. Here it is almost as though the viewer unintentionally becomes part of the work itself. Moreover, due to the reflective nature of the surface, one is simultaneously able to catch a glimpse of Frank’s other pieces, resulting in a multidimensional viewing experience.

The works in this exhibition are refreshingly playful experiments that showcase Frank’s unique technique and idiosyncratic aesthetics. His creations both alarm and intrigue, ultimately subverting our expectations of what painting is, or should be. 

DALE FRANK, His Homeless Eyes Left You Legless, 2016, color resin in liquid glass on Perspex, 200 × 160 × 6 cm. Courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong. 

Brittany Dale is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

Dale Frank’s exhibition is on view at Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong until March 9, 2017.

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