In Multimedia Works, Justine Frischmann Captures the Effects of Light

George Lawson
Apr 22, 2016 8:35PM

Painter Justine Frischmann is a British expatriate now based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In her early 20s, Frischmann gained prominence as a rocker with her much-heralded band, Elastica, before turning her back on that realm to enroll in the Buddhist curriculum at The Naropa Institute. She emerged somewhat reconsidered, with a new, disciplined abstract painting practice.

Frischmann joins the ranks of painters who fascinated by the effects of light. She straddles quite polarized worlds with the light she explores, whether the spotlight, the urban glare of media scrutiny and stress, the coastal light of the rural North Bay’s rolling hills, or the fog-mitigated ambience that promotes self-examination. In the energy and immediacy of her gesture, she achieves visual equivalencies for the punk ethic she was drawn to in the London of the ‘90s. 

Deploying a kind of light refraction through the use of mixed media, oil paint, acrylic spray enamel, and repurposed photography, Frischmann balances urban and natural inferences, and captures an aura somewhere between limelight and inner light. In the process, Frischmann achieves a benevolent, but charged phosphorescence.

Frischmann paints on a thin aluminum panel with an inset back frame that floats the surface slightly off the wall. This method presents the painted plane in a manner that tends to heighten the contrast between the corporeal and ephemeral elements in her approach. She juxtaposes gesture and architecture, mass tone and prismatic trans-lucence, improvisation and a considered physicality, all in the service of an art of threshold states. Rather than simply stacking the three media she employs, she shuffles them, with the fluorescent spray paint acting as an arbitrator between the origami folds of her photo-based imagery and the thick roll of the high-valued oil paint layer she smears on. The sublimation print process involves heating the aluminum plate and embedding the inks within the grain of the surface, hence starting the image back behind the plane, and imbuing the overall picture with a somewhat holographic effect. This shift is all the more pronounced by its offset to the impasto pull of her wide brush marks. In her work, these opposites materials strangely work well together.

Lambent #93, 2016
George Lawson Gallery
Lambent #90, 2016
George Lawson Gallery

Frischmann's biography—her journey from concert music to paint, from a collective and immersive experience to a solitary and singular one—begs the question: Why paint? 

Frischmann’s current practice captures more than the tropes of an alternative social scene, and her work pushes past fashion into the realm of  the human condition. Her paintings touch upon life's basic building blocks as vulnerability and adaptation, loss and recovery, growth and discovery, and forgiveness. The life of a painter fits the scope of Frischmann’s ambition more readily than the music scene she left behind. In painting, Frischmann can reach for an organizing principle, a position taken both in and out of the light. She can respond to things as they are, readily shifting as they do from brightness to shadow and back again.

—George Lawson

George Lawson