Endlessly inventive, demonstrating a rare stylistic virtuosity and a preparedness to take on significant artistic challenges, Dick Frizzell has both pioneered and established a unique body of work. Returning repeatedly throughout his career to four seemingly diverse modes of visual expression, Quartermain for the first time presents the four hands (or strands) together in one exhibition.
Frizzell’s idiosyncratic sensibility, his restless quality and wit, preparedness to ceaselessly question and reflect while simultaneously pushing boundaries of tradition by entwining high art and popular culture should not result in us failing to recognise his unity of purpose: that no image is too sacred or banal and that art must forever question the social role(s) and purpose it fulfils and serves. It is art and artists’ fundamental duty to question everything, including art itself.
At one of the primary centres of Frizzell’s concerns is an ongoing narrative about identity and place. Autumn Morning Alexandra (2023), Highway 94 Near Riversdale (2023) and Somewhere in Central Hawkes Bay (2023) are outstanding examples of this. His career-long exploration and development of a rural vernacular unmistakably his own - the folding, interlocking rhythms and role of lines; use of signs and objects as symbols; ascending/descending sensations and angles of sight which profoundly move and alter – has seen his singular treatment of the modified and ordinary, worked and inhabited New Zealand landscape presenting the truth and reality of what is there to behold. His iconographic landscapes are therefore compelling homages to place, where use, misuse, neglect and time’s passage are equally weighted. They often begin at one’s feet (Paper Road, 2022), to have the especial authority of accuracy (Scottish Fishing Village, 2023) and the sense of actually being there (Driving Home from Grahame’s, 2023). He places the viewer in it.
The BoHoTIKIs continue Frizzell’s stylistic investigation of the tiki form, and his long-term conversation with the formal values of modernist abstract art. Firmly located in the ‘kiwi’ psyche and clearly demonstrating that the disciplines of drawing are fundamental to his entire oeuvre, Frizzell openly acknowledges that all art is built upon the shoulders of giants; that cultural and stylistic appropriation has been a fundamental building block of all art forms. While Picasso directly sourced stylistic abstraction cues from North African art, Frizzell, alert to the plurality of the tiki form, primarily stayed home. While in the minds of some this was a cultural travesty when first exhibited (back in 1990), Frizzell has repeatedly returned to the tiki form and continued his re-exploration of it.
Ambiguously titled and openly referencing the figurative presence, indeterminate space, geometric shapes and overlapping planes of the Italian artist Alberto Magnelli, Frizzell delivers entirely new investigations into a modernist construct of the tiki. In the seven-work suite of BoHoTIKIs he establishes hard-edged forms set against large matt areas of colour. Equally in the strikingly witty titling, he adds a layer of duality, acknowledging in that manner the free-spirited aesthetic of the ‘Boho’ (bohemian) style which mixes different cultures and artistic expressions together into an eclectic fusion with an emphasis on organic elements present. Exactly as he has done in these important works.
The beautiful and commandingly delivered Nude (2023), Nude, Reclining (2023) and Pink Roses (2023) reprise Frizzell’s long conversation about the centuries long academic painting traditions and how they can be made relevant today. Exhibiting his highly skilled handling of paint, filled with emotional resonance, his preparedness to confront tradition head-on becomes in itself a courageously subversive bravura act. And the results ultimately do all the necessary talking for him.
Completing Quartermain are a suite of two-dimensional renditions of three-dimensional kinetic objects in space (Illustrated Calder and Illustrated Tinguely, both from 2022), the mathematical pattern treatment of a tiki (Mathematiki, 2023) and another remarkably plastic, organic colour-overlayered investigation of the tiki, Badge (2023).