Dale Frank

Surely not, for little did he think little could come of it. The problem was little was the means method and outcome., 2006
varnish on canvas
200.0 x 260.0 cm


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Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Private Collection, Sydney

'Dale Frank', Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2-27 May 2006, cat. no. 5

This is a commanding painting: physically large and immersive in its depth beyond the surface. Frank’s surfaces are true objects of fetish, impossibly luscious molasses creations of dyed varnish, oxide and chemical reaction – sulfur and phosphorous amongst others are used, but the exact recipe is a well-kept secret. A viewer will find themselves mirrored in this infinite gloss, bulging outward and upward with each rivulet and mutation of colour.

The title, plucked from obscurity ‘Surely not, for little did he think could come of it. The problem was little was the means method and outcome’ wends its own way about the painting, recalling the wise-guy-speak of a 1950s mobster. Charmingly it leads the viewer further down the rabbit hole.

Painting for Frank is a performative act of endurance. It can take up to eight hours for a single movement of varnish over canvas to unfold as the artist intends. A prostrated canvas is raised and tilted from below, with Frank responding at each second to the creative process. As noted by Christopher Chapman, Frank ‘relates conceptually to synaptic, molecular and libidinal energies and electrical flows.’

‘Frank foregrounds the physical and psychological experiences of his creation of the works and our experience of them. For Frank the act of painting not only produces a static two-dimensional image, but also is an idea bound up with performance and time. These paintings suggest worlds that might be cosmic or quantum in scale, delirious and spectacular in their internal colour and form relations… they appear animate, full of pulsing sensation and rippling spatiality.’ (Christopher Chapman, ‘So far: the art of Dale Frank 2005-1980’, Schwartz City, 2007)

  • Surely not, for little did he think little could come of it. The problem was little was the means method and outcome.

Image courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and the artist

View artist profile

With a career as both a performance artist and an abstract painter, Dale Frank’s ability to cross media and experiment with form and different methods of artistic experience has made his work deeply engaging with audiences around the world. Born in Singleton, New South Wales, in 1959, Frank lives and works in the Hunter Valley.

Frank began exhibiting in Australia in the mid-1970s, with periods spent working across Europe and the United States. With over four decades of practice, Frank has had a vastly experimental relationship with conceptual installation and a range of materials. In recent years, varnish and enamel have been mainstays, which he has skilfully manipulated to nebulous forms and surfaces in the colourful, poured paintings for which he has become well known. The final surfaces are sleek and polished, giving a liquid quality to the abstract, brightly coloured forms that lie beneath. Just like his performance art, which often aimed to engage the sense of touch or sound as well as sight, his paintings are visceral and tactile, with great attention paid to form and surface.

Frank’s international exhibiting career began at P.S.1, New York, (now MOMA PS1) in 1981. In 1983 Frank was included in the exhibition Panorama della post - critica: critica ed arte at the Museo Palazzo Lanfranchi in Pisa alongside Thomas Lawson and Anselm Kiefer, curated by Helena Kontova. The following year he was shown in the Aperto section of the 1984 Venice Biennale. In 2000 a twenty-year survey of Frank’s work, Ecstasy – 20 Years of Painting, was mounted at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. 

In 2007 a monograph on Dale Frank was published by Black Inc Books, So Far: the Art of Dale Frank 2005-1980. Frank’s work is held in all major Australian national and state galleries, as well as in the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, New Zealand, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Zurich Kunsthaus.