by Insiders Dunedin

Frank Gordon’s latest exhibition Pin-Ups recently opened at Gallery De Novo on Lower Stuart St. Gordon is a largely self-taught artist who cites Bruegel, Bosch, Glasgow artist Peter Howson and New Zealand artist Michael Smither as being major influences. His works are playful, energetic and have a clever sense of humour. Mini dramas play out on Gordon’s canvases for the viewer's enjoyment. 

Gordon is a very interesting character himself and is well-liked by those who know him. He is a trained psychiatric nurse, who works daily with a range of people in our community. In his paintings, Gordon creates a narrative that explores the human condition through his glass half full perspective of the life. 

“I like to produce paintings that present a situation whether it is unusual, fanciful or a step beyond reality. There is usually an element of humour in my work. I don’t consciously set out to achieve this, it just seems to evolve with the process. Sometimes it is more subtle than others which are obviously a little bit quirky or even downright slapstick.”  

Gordon settled in Dunedin in 2000 emigrating from Glasgow, Scotland. He grew up on the outskirts of Glasgow in a village called Moodiesburn where there ‘wasn’t much to do,' so he drew pictures. He has been doing just that ever since. Growing up, any piece of paper he could find would be turned into a drawing, even the inside of LP covers were torn open to be drawn on the inside. However, it was not until his move to Dunedin that he began painting seriously. He says he draws a great deal of inspiration from the strong creative community that exists in Dunedin. 

Gordon has exhibited his work since 2005 and has been the winner of a number of local art awards, including the Otago Phone Book covers in 2006 and 2007. 

When he was trying to find his own ‘style’ Gordon leant towards painting stylised figures and experimented with having them doing things the viewer would not expect, such as flying. Gordon tries to be kind with his representations of people, however he is not overly concerned with getting the anatomy correct and allows for the comedy to take over. The works are not meant to be life drawing studies instead he chooses to depict his characters as big, beautiful, colourful storybook characters in their own little worlds. 

The work “An Even Worse Start to the Evening” harks back to an earlier work “ A Bad Start to the Evening” which dates back to 2000. He recalls the original work being very popular and so, in the recent version, he has tried to pick apart why the older work was so well received. Gordon believes the vivid colours, humour and definite narrative involving a bit of domestic drama strikes a chord with viewers. 

Other works in this show may exhibit less humour, however there is still a sense of a story playing out. Gordon leaves it up to the viewer to decide the exact details of the story for themselves. His treatment of the figures’ faces, bodies and expressions all link the works. A range of sources are used by Gordon to create his own style, from looking at other artists’ work, images from the internet or books to real people to create Gordon’s composite characters. The viewer can relate to the figures in the works. The figures’ composite nature creates a sense of almost looking like someone you know, but can’t quite put your finger on who. 

Go and take a look at this brilliant exhibition that shows Gordon working at his best. 

Gallery De Novo website:
Frank Gordon website:



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