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  • Nov 09, 2012

Dale Frank’s “New Works”

DALE FRANK, Too cool to matter, 2012, varnish on canvas, 160 × 120 cm. Courtesy Art Statements Hong Kong. 

Twelve new, abstract paintings by Australian artist Dale Frank, in a show at Hong Kong’s Art Statements gallery, delight the eyes and whet the appetite. The translucent painted layers, applied with inexplicable precision and balance, look like tubs of melted sherbet spilling and merging across the canvas. The many layers are built up into a rich material density. In some works, such as Too cool to matter (2012), the paint has dried in raised pouches large enough to cup two hands around.

Frank, who has been painting for over 20 years, creates these effects by pouring varnish onto canvas laid flat on raised timber A-frames. Methodically, he shifts the pools of paint with a wooden rod along the canvas’ underside. Frank’s process is a physically intensive performance, and indeed, places him in the category of action painter. The controlled, deliberate compositions, as well as the happy, accidental meetings of previously unacquainted colors, record the artist’s encounter with the canvas. Seaweed green swaths are dashed with bright pinks; deep purple tones cross paths with ivory streaks; yellows are marbled with black. These bold color combinations are worthy of Matisse’s pallet.

And as in a Matisse painting, the dynamic effect allows your gaze no rest. The paint streams and blooms into a series of wide, glossy bands, sinuous curves, writhing forms and tiny squiggles. The ecstatic lines guide the eye quickly from one part of the canvas to another.

The titles of the paintings likewise unfold with spontaneity and surprise. A work with a smeared bubblegum-pink form and blue drizzle is called His thrilling night out had become wearing no bottoms to bed (2012). Mister MBA IBM wore slacker underwear and drove a slacker car (2012) describes viscous black and purple forms on another canvas. Though the artwork and titles express separate, unrelated descriptions, they are united in their playfulness and vitality. The words are not attempts to rationalize.

And what is there, after all, to explain? Looking at Frank’s canvases is the experience of pure sensation. These paintings are testaments to the sheer power of color. How delightful it is to be lost in such gorgeous confusion.  

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