Three frames, three windows, a myriad of ideas – Britomart Project Space is all about injecting a sense of the unexpected into the everyday. Wedged between Shaky Isles and Stanbeth House, the space is used for showcasing the work of some of New Zealand’s most interesting artists. Walk past it once and you might just miss it, but walk past again and you’ll discover something new exhibited each month.

On display in May is Dick Frizzell’s series I’m Here for the Monkey. Originally created for the 2016 Auckland Art Fair, Frizzell’s interest in The Phantom began in the 1970’s and developed from his “misspent comic-book youth.” For his 2016 series, Frizzell produced 100 paintings, each of which are available for purchase individually, allowing collectors to create their own narrative by selecting a group of works that speak to them. When exhibited within Project Space the narrative of the works changes depending on the direction you walk past – have a look when you next have a lunchtime wander.

While Frizzell is known for drawing inspiration from popular culture, with imagery of the now iconic ‘Four Square Man’, road signs and more controversially the tiki, the comic book has remained of recurring interest throughout Frizzell’s career. His eclectic range of subject matter is testament to his interest in mixing traditionally high and low forms of art. Comic book imagery offers a perfect ‘low’, an art form that was excluded from the art historical canon until British and American Pop artists of the 1950s and 1960s elevated it into the realm of fine art. For Frizzell, his use of hairy-knuckled baddies and fair maidens is also deeply personal; “I wanted my low art sources to be honored a bit more – not being used to ‘comment’, but being used because of real emotional attachment to the source.”

While it all may seem Crash! Boom! Pow! upon first glance, the I’m Here for the Monkey offers a unique insight into Frizzell’s childhood, as well as serving as a healthy dose of nostalgia for those who remember The Phantom.

I’m Here for the Monkey by Dick Frizzell, courtesy of Gow Langsford Gallery, is on display until late May at Britomart Project Space, 26/28 Customs Street East, Britomart.


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