Important Australian + International Fine Art
10 April 2019


born 1959

varnish on synthetic polymer paint on canvas

200.0 x 200.0 cm

$25,000 – 35,000
Sold for $61,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 57 - 10 April 2019, Sydney

Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne (label attached verso)
Private collection, Melbourne

Catalogue text

Epic in both scale and intent, Dale Frank's sumptuously coloured, glossy canvases such as Jeremy Hugenot, 2000 offer a continually evolving dialogue upon the individual's relationship to the immersive universe. Engaging with science, poetics, spatialisation and time, his 'performances' not only complicate the customary roles of artist as creator and audience as passive observer, but highlight the problems inherent in the very act of painting itself.

Typically featuring glistening, marbled flows and ponderous slides, slow-creeping bleeds and animated squiggles, these huge plasma-like abstractions possess a remarkable ability to completely absorb the viewer's consciousness and thus provoke powerful emotional responses akin to the medium of film. Yet despite their inordinately specific titles and the swirling tides of tinted varnish which seem to convey the forces of nature in a manner reminiscent of Romantic painting, Frank deliberately eschews any reference to the literal – his works are neither real nor imagined. Rather, each abstraction 'creates itself', evolving over time through the movement and chemical reactions between layers of strident, pulsating varnish in its molten liquid form ('a living entity'). Indeed, for Frank, the blank white canvas is never a pristine ground that must be filled, but 'a black space' where the final outcome is 'forced upon the Painting by the vagaries of its own Nature and makeup: its environment and 'material' personality determine its image, its future, its relations within the world’.1

If Frank's technique appears ostensibly random or unpredictable however, such spontaneity belies a painstaking process of 'endurance and isolation'. As the luminous pools of pigmented varnish are poured onto the horizontal canvas and immediately begin to resist and coalesce, the artist must remain continuously attentive to the passing of time, the variations of climate, and the actions required by him at every stage – adding more varnish or changing the angle of support as necessary. As Frank reveals, 'It is a totally hands on and cerebral way of painting ... The process can take up to twenty-four hours where I have to be permanently standing over the painting, constantly considering every minute aspect’.2

With his visionary eloquence and technical ingenuity, Frank occupies an esteemed position at the forefront of Australian contemporary art practice. Awarded the prestigious Red Cross Art Award by John Olsen at the tender age of 16, his was a precocious talent and within only five years, he had achieved international recognition with solo exhibitions across Australia, Europe and America. Significantly, in 1983, his work was selected for display alongside Thomas Lawson and Anselm Kiefer at the Museo Palazzo Lanfranchi in Pisa, Italy, and in 1984, he was included in the Aperto section of the Venice Biennale. In 2000, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney mounted the touring survey exhibition of his work Ecstasy: 20 years of painting; in 2005, Frank won the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize at the Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria and in 2007, his achievements were documented in the magnificent monograph So Far: the Art of Dale Frank 2005-1980. Today, his paintings are held in every major public collection across Australia, as well as numerous private and corporate collections around the world.

1. Frank, D., cited in Chapman, C., 'Dale Frank: Performance into Painting', in Frank, D., So Far: the Art of Dale Frank 2005-1980, Schwartz City Publishing, Melbourne, 2008, p. 134
2. Frank, D., cited in Crawford, A., 'Dale Frank', Art & Australia, Art & Australia Pty Ltd, Sydney, vol. 42, no. 2, 2004, p. 214