Dick Frizzell is without doubt one of the most influential artists working in New Zealand today. Given the rapid and complex societal change that has occurred in New Zealand over the last thirty years, questions of Kiwi identity, culture, environment, and art are ever relevant and as a practising artist, Frizzell is firmly ensconced in a role that asks him to query, to needle, to invent, to reflect. That he still performs this role with dedication and assurance underscores Frizzell’s commitment to his art, his ideas and his environment.
“It was while working in the environment of commercial advertising that Frizzell began to pluck familiar objects from their usual context and turn them into arresting images. Several products that were ‘household’ names to New Zealanders in the late 1970’s became icons in Frizzell’s hands. From sources as varied as canned fish wrappers, corner shop signage and junk mail, he turned images into paintings, giving titles that introduced unexpected associations.” (1)
Frizzell’s work has often had “an eclectic quality, brought about by the variety of styles he has borrowed, pastiched or commented on in his art. In much of his imagery, no line is drawn between low art sources such as comic book illustrations or packaging and the high art references with which his painting is freely sprinkled.” (2)
Although primarily a painter, Frizzell also produces an extensive range of works on paper including lithographs and screen prints. Prints and paintings "inspired by comics, advertising trademarks, Maori iconography and rural road signs have flowed out of him for more than four decades, during which time Frizzell has enlivened the local art world with his wit. His is a world in which no image is too sacred or too banal." (3) Frizzell has engendered discussions about cultural (mis)appropriation, bicultural cross-fertilisations, art as design, and the politicisation of New Zealand art to name but a few. It was crucial that these issues began to be addressed and Frizzell continues to do so to this day.
Born in Auckland in 1943, Dick Frizzell studied at the Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1960 and 1963. His works are held in all major public, corporate and private collections in New Zealand. He has also completed a number of major commissions including works for Sky City Casino (Auckland) and the painting of an Ansett New Zealand aeroplane for Starship Children's Hospital. In 1997 a retrospective exhibition of his work, Dick Frizzell: Portrait of a Serious Artiste, was toured to major national institutions. In 2009 his book, Dick Frizzell: The Painter, was published.
1. Elizabeth Caughey & John Gow, Contemporary New Zealand Art 2, 1999.
2. Michael Dunn, Contemporary Painting in New Zealand, 1996.
3. Grant Smithies, "Accidental Artist," Sunday Star Times, September 2008.