During a career spanning three decades, Dale Frank has worked with multiple mediums including installation, film, sculpture and painting. Most recently he has been spending a considerable amount of time experimenting with painting. Focused on the physical process of applying multiple layers of liquid to a surface, Frank’s latest paintings ooze colour and texture; they resemble the remnants of an exploding galaxy.
To augment the visual appeal of his paintings, Frank works directly onto glass and Perspex to capture a reflective element canvas does not offer. In addition to his reflective base, Frank’s hyper-coloured layers are made from tinted varnish, epoxy, glass and acrylic. Applying each layer horizontally then allowing it to dry, Frank’s labour intensive painting process creates visible tactile depth and gradients of gooey colour smashed together in drips and wide brushstrokes.
In his new body of work, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery’s associate director Claire Visitserngtrakul notes a change in how Frank is working with his materials. “The steps he has taken to apply colour and movement across the pictorial surface are very different to what he has done in the past,” she says. “There is more movement, more visual depth and more variation of colour. The application of varnish is also different as Dale is not just pouring and letting it swirl by itself on the canvas like he used to. Now he is using stencils and additional tools to work the varnish into and across the surface.”
Possessing an irresistible viscosity, Frank’s paintings can’t help but draw the viewer closer. However, on further inspection of the work’s facade, the meaning of its content remains elusive. Reflecting on the potential for varied interpretations of his paintings, Frank said in an artist’s statement, “I like that painting can seduce, that the content can be provocative, sublime and aggressive at the same time. You never know what you are looking at.”
Throughout his vast practice, Frank has maintained a steady theme of abstraction. Despite the absence of any discernible features in his paintings, Frank links each work to a long, cryptic title often referring to a person or experience. Titles like He found he was obsessively thinking of his death every day, 2019, and She became a Vegan after the truck stop incident, 2019, read like annotations to the visuals and suggest an underlying narrative. “Dale’s titles are usually absurd ponderances and the acute observations he makes on a daily basis,” Visitserngtrakul explains. “He writes them down in his notebook. He has a great sense of humour. You never quite know if it’s an anecdote or if it is all fictional.”
Also included in the exhibition are two video pieces and a lone sculptural installation. The installation, Allied on-ramp public liquid Nitrogen making machine (urinal for men), 2019, is constructed from funnels, catheters, urine bags and a plastic topiary ball, further reiterating Frank’s penchant for the absurd and his affection for experimenting with unorthodox materials. “What is really interesting about Dale’s work is his ability to constantly bring new ideas into play,” says Visitserngtrakul. “His new work is still very Dale Frank but at the same time it manages to surprise you every time.”