Warren Elwin and Dick Frizzell talk art, life and Vogel's bread
Redesigning an icon
Dick Frizzell is in a sweet spot. Sitting opposite me in his colourful Auckland studio, we’re shooting the breeze on all things artsy-foodie, and talking about the new Vogel’s bread bags hitting stores this week, designed by none other than the man himself.
“I can’t believe it. I’m completely blown away by the whole thing” he says, genuinely blushing. “Food labels kicked off my early career, and now for me to actually redesign an iconic New Zealand food package? My art has come full circle! I can die now,” he chuckles, in jest.
But he’s deadly serious about his enthusiasm for the project, and deeply proud of the end result. And he should be. It’s a cracker jack bag, reimagined by a true icon of New Zealand art. Working with the idea of a shelf collectable artbag, Goodman Fielder asked Dick to do “something out there” but were rightly concerned about messing with such a deeply ingrained loaf of bread. His initial response was tentative “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right?” So he started out by hand drawing the Vogel’s logo, having a quick look at turning the stripes into strands of wheat and throwing away the superfluous stuff? Or as he puts it, “I asked myself, what would Dick do?”
It’s at this point that he starts to get really excited. There is a beautiful new painting in his studio of a tin of mackerel that he found in Rarotonga, called Wonderful. “I had gone back to the beginning,” he exclaims, cross-referencing one of his breakthrough paintings from 1978, a tin of mackerel called Black Geisha “when suddenly I saw it as a bread label, and thought maybe I’ll just do it like that”. Goodman Fielder’s response was let’s do it. “I really thought I was on to something, and when they came back with ‘make it frizzellified’, I went nuts, and they bought it”.
How to cook a steak
While proclaiming he’s not the cook in the house, Dick knows his coriander from his parsley. “I can’t cook a steak without timing it on my watch, it’s true! I’ve got no idea, and if I bugger up those sirloins I’m in trouble, so it’s me and my watch, standing guard at the barbie.” Season steaks with salt and pepper. Lay them on a hot grill, and time them for 1½ minutes. Turn the steaks so you get the nice criss-cross thing going on, and then time them for another 1½ minutes. Turn them over and repeat the process. Three minutes each side. Done.
Dick’s rules to live by
Dick is a looker — seeing not what’s just around the corner, but what’s directly in front of him, and he inhabits it. The seemingly mundane, or the everyday, is attractive to him. As unafraid of appropriation as he is of being copied himself, he understands the significance it plays in his, and art’s history in general. “I go where no one else goes,” he smiles. “If they say ‘don’t go there’, I’m curious as to why I shouldn’t and go immediately to find out.”
- Nothing is sacred
- Everything is up for grabs
- Never ask for permission, it’s easier to obtain forgiveness
Or, as a cherished artist mentor once told him “Dick, get over yourself.”
He is after all, simply a good Kiwi bloke at heart. He grew up with his mum’s Sunday roasts and still likes a good piece of mutton. His father worked at the freezing works and he and his brothers would procure the sweetbreads left behind in the necks of the lambs. He ate so much fruit growing up in Hawke’s Bay that today he can’t face apples. He loves grilled flounder. And he loves Coca Cola “especially with a bit of bourbon in it.” He loves how grown-up Auckland has become, and enjoys nothing more than the unfussy honesty of a meal at Coco’s Cantina, Depot, Prego and his current favourite, Laila Harre’s seafood bar and grill IKA on Mt Eden Rd.
He laughs about it all: “the older you get, the less you can eat, especially the scones, the scones don’t help.”
I could talk to Dick all day. About obvious things like the inspiration in a tin can label, artsy things that he describes as “morphic residence”, or I like to misunderstand as a collective consciousness. And important things like the ongoing New Zealand flag debate, in which he is actively involved, refining and exploring potential options with and without a fern, even if only for his own peace of mind.
His current exhibition, Up the Road, is presently showing at the Gow Langsford gallery, and touring the roads and towns of the country, changing and morphing as it goes. He’s a lovely man, full of endless artistic endeavour and inspiration. I enjoyed chuckling with him, and I like the way he says “SweeET” and “Wowzers!” Next time I think I might surprise him with a brisket sandwich, with some hot peppers in it...and I’ll take him the tin, of course.
Marmite or vegemite?
Marmite, of course
Tinned tuna or mackerel?
Tuna . . . in a salad nicoise
Spaghetti or baked beans?
Spaghetti. We used to eat it cold straight from the can. Old camping trick.
Kidneys or chicken livers?
Both, and sweetbreads!
Pavlova or trifle?
Both, on the same plate
Banana or chocolate cake?
Banana with chocolate icing
Hokey pokey or raspberry ripple?
Tamarillos or feijoas?
Hate ‘em both
Kumara or spuds?
Both, with the same Sunday roast of lamb or mutton
I know you love wine, but what’s your favourite beer?
What do you think people should know about wine?
Red from white
Malaysian from Sri Penang on K Rd
Home alone, what are you eating?
A slice of Vogel’s with pesto and tomato
Who is your hero?
Phew. Bob Harvey
Saying you use most often?
Chance favours the well-prepared, and, it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission
Advice for young artists?
Keep at it. Study away your delusions
Hit me with your death row meal right now
Yours to own!
For the price of a loaf of Vogel’s you can own a unique piece of Frizzell artwork. The Vogel’s/Frizzell loaves are a limited edition so be sure to head out and buy one at your local store today. Nothing has changed inside the bag, so enjoy each slice just as you always do, revelling in the brilliance that is Vogel’s.
Each loaf comes with a unique code to enter for your chance to win the original artist’s proof. There are also limited edition prints, reusable sandwich wrappers and shopping bags up for grabs.