T J McNamara on the arts

T J McNamara is a Herald arts writer

T.J. McNamara: Our master of many modes

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Dick Frizzell can paint anything in any manner - and does so superbly

Dick Frizzell's 'Dance of the Hooligans'. Photo / Richard Robinson
Dick Frizzell's 'Dance of the Hooligans'. Photo / Richard Robinson

In Auckland this week we have one big home-grown show and the work of two international artists. No one has concentrated more on the New Zealand scene, urban and rural, than Dick Frizzell and his work is at both Gow Langsford Galleries, in Lorne and Kitchener Sts.

The Lorne St gallery is dominated by an immense painting, The Dance of the Hooligans. Hooligans also appear in the form of a pair of stylish Parisian Apache dancers in a smaller painting. The origin of this varied work is the clean-out of an accumulation of 50-plus years of work motivated by the artist's return to Auckland after some years in Hawkes Bay.

It reflects his fascination and talents in the areas of display, comics and advertising. In some measure it reflects the schoolboy who was so good at drawing comic characters for his schoolmates that he could differentiate between the several artists who drew Donald Duck for Disney.

There is a huge amount of collage, mostly of old signs and advertisements.

It all begins at the top left corner of the big picture with a man with steam coming out of his ears. The painting of a roadside sign for DRY FIREWOOD indicates that all this stuff set the imagination alight. Following on are guns and robots, Felix the Cat and a giant fire-breathing comic dragon. All the beginnings of his career are there, tied together by energy of movement.

The work is in four panels. One is an old comic joke, incorporating many graphic conventions.

For all its size the painting represents only part of Frizzell's enormous production. He is our Picasso. He can paint anything in any manner and does so. One of the earliest works he showed was a perfect still-life called A Pair of Pears. The Auckland Art Gallery showed one of his works in a retrospective show - Veronica, a traditional subject depicting Christ's face imprinted on a towel while he was carrying the cross. It could have been by any baroque master in the 17th century.

This virtuosity in handling paint is attested by a large canvas of boats reflected in water called Look at Them as Though You Were There. This has echoes of famous versions of similar subjects done as if accepting a challenge from the past.

The exhibition at the Kitchener St gallery has works challenging such artists as Braque or Colin McCahon.

There is one painting that simply says "Ouch!" It is called I Refute it Thus, which is what the celebrated Dr Johnson said as he kicked a large stone in refutation of the philosophic idea that nothing existed unless somebody was observing it. It is far from his best painting but it shows the breadth of the artist's interests.

It is also typical of the vein of wit that runs through the whole show. It emphasises reality in life and art by a stack of buckets as much as a balanced abstraction. These works dug out from storage are not one of Frizzell's most concentrated exhibitions but they are a tribute to skill and joy in art and life.

Philosophic reflections play a large part in the work by Peter Panyozcki at the Bath Street Gallery. He is Hungarian and resident in New Zealand although his work is addressed to an international audience. The works are accompanied by literature that has references from Aristotle to Stephen Hawking.

The images are basically simple overall but complex within their borders. The surface of many of the paintings is uniform masses of small raised hillocks or a texture of sand. Beneath the texture in some cases there is an inkjet print almost obscured but providing extremely complex patterns of colour. Three such works are on paper, the rest, more substantially, are on sheet aluminium.

The abstract paintings are called Particle Meditations, though one work that has heavy female forms is simply called Meditations. The silicon that forms the overall dot patterns on the other works is left unpainted. The rest range from being a unified surface to being cleft with a deep valley. Whether they invoke profound meditation depends on the viewer but they are visually very stimulating. The work that lingers in the mind is oval with a sphere within it. A hint of a cast shadow is enough to give the dotted sphere solidity and poise.

Another international artist, this time from Belgium, is Joachim Bandau, who is showing the latest of his biannual exhibitions in the upper gallery at Two Rooms. His work shows astonishing technique and is simply beautiful. Veil after veil of watercolour is imposed until, by degrees, at the most dense area, an absolute dark void is achieved. For all this unity of style each painting achieves a different character. It is an extreme of abstract beauty.


At the galleries

What: The Dance of the Hooligans by Dick Frizzell

Where and when: Gow Langsford Galleries, 26 Lorne St and 2 Kitchener St, to October 26

TJ says: Both galleries are given over to works from the studio and storage of Dick Frizzell after a shift from country to town and show his development and the extraordinary variety of his notable achievements.

What: Particle Meditations by Peter Panyozcki

Where and when: Bath Street Gallery, 43 Bath St, Parnell, to October 26

TJ says: Mostly abstract paintings done with extraordinary techniques using inkjet, silicone, sand and cement to make solemn, thoughtful paintings with remarkable surfaces.

What: Paintings by Joachim Bandau

Where and when: Two Rooms, 16 Putiki St, Newton, to November 2

TJ says: Apparently simple watercolour abstractions responding to light and transparency that become complex and singularly lovely as they grow.

- NZ Herald

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