The latest, largest, and most spectacular work by Dale Frank fills both branches of the Gow Langsford galleries. His work is decorative rhetoric on a large scale done with unusual technique and materials that extend the concept of a framed painting.
The basis of the work is a product called Euromir Perspex, as reflective as a mirror. The result is that viewers and the background are an integral part of the painting and, consequently, it is constantly changing.
Across these vividly coloured mirror backgrounds the artist allows liquid paint to flow sometimes very thickly. Only in one work, He walked around like he had the whole of the 20th century stuffed in his Sweatpants, is there any kind of obvious brushwork.
Allowing the paint to flow gives it a life of its own as it finds its way across the background. This is not entirely uncontrolled. You feel the painter must have been able to tilt the paintings when, despite their large size, they are laid flat.
The result is the intricate green, blue and purple interaction in a work such as He said her teeth always got in the way. Frank, as always, is given to long, enigmatic titles that have a puzzling relationship with the work.
While constantly using reflection as the medium for his work, he has variations in his approach. Craven A has 14 silver mirror discs on its surface and the viewer and the background are seen at different sizes and angles. Discs within discs give a tunnel view that is intriguing but a bit mechanical compared to the flowing paintings.
Stripes of the material provide another variant and their black backing gives a dark shadow wave on the back surface when seen from the side.
The most striking variation is when the works seem to have been assaulted from behind by shell-fire. The missiles have burst through, leaving holes of various sizes. The holes are lined and have a mirror in their depths.
All of these paintings are called Chinese Landscape and one must make what one can of these violent intrusions across the rich plane of the surface. They contribute to the way the artist has explored a radical concept of painting by successfully coming up with a use of material that makes his work unique and instantly recognisable.
Emily Karaka's work, Settlement, uses conventional expressionist oil painting as polemic using vivid colour and a great deal of text to express history, elegy and anger all linked to specific areas around Auckland, particularly our historical volcanic cones.
The show is made up of 14 uniformly square paintings on board and a large triptych canvas that acts as a summarising conclusion. The sequence, which could be arranged as a frieze, begins with a diagrammatic work that sees treaty settlement as a game of snakes and ladders. The water deepens with Confidential Treaty Negotiations, an exceptional painting with two circles of intricately woven string as a symbol of the complexity of the discussions. These are presided over by an alert, owl-like figure that recurs in most of the other paintings. Its weird wings have an all-encompassing spread.
Other paintings include emblematic circles to define the issues but most address the history of the hills from Motutapu to Ohinerau " Mt St John.
The artist has been signatory to negotiations with the Crown and the exhibition is replete with knowledge and familiarity.
Steadfast flags raised in a number of the works play their part in the vigorous design allied in the final paintings to a pattern of streets and a STOP sign. The flags range from bold white flags to colourful tribal ensigns. Strong primary colours, particularly the red in the skies, convey emotional force, notably in Matukutururu (Wiri Mountain). It laments a hill now almost gone because of quarrying and shows the terracing of the original pa and the flames of a geologically recent eruption. Equally resonant is the flag devoted to Motutapu, which contains the Christian symbol of the cross raised alongside a white banner and a blue manaia crested with three feathers.
Such complex imagery makes this a singular and forceful exhibition of special significance to this multicultural city.
At the galleries
What: New Paintings by Dale Frank
Where and when: Gow Langsford, 26 Lorne St and cnr Kitchener & Wellesley St, to August 16
TJ says: Paintings on reflective material and paint allowed to flow freely and mingle as waves. The viewer is an integral part of the work.
What: Settlement by Emily Karaka
Where and when: Orexart, 15 Putiki St, Arch Hill, to August 8
TJ says: Strong, bold paintings that record in vivid colour the sale of Maori land in Auckland against lettering of names, deeds and details of transactions.