|1953, born in Wellington, South Africa|
|Frank's approach to painting is uncomplicated and direct.
In his work the expressive use of line and strong brushwork amplify his
experience. "Colour is important to me."
Frank says "Red symbolises the unhappiness
I associate with the land. There is always trouble. People have so many
problems with land. Then there is the political trouble". His
paintings are peopled with the folk of the Boland: Laborers toil in the
vineyards, women carry wood or trudge wearily home after a day's work. Strong
southern sunsets streak the sky.
Frank has a emotive painterly approach: " I sketch the figure roughly and then I paint. As I work it comes together and then I can see what is happening" he explains. "Normally I see someone walking. I don't know where he is coming from, or how far. Most people have to walk a distance. If they want to do something, they do it. That's what gives me inspiration. They had nothing but they go on."
Frank keeps no books on art in his home. He has had almost no formal tuition but has learnt much by mixing in the company of other artists and observing their work in the galleries. His work is original as he is unaware of the traditional conventions conventions used to portray the human figure and landscape.
Frank was educated at the William Lloyd primary school and the Paulus Joubert High school in Paarl. Pressured by financial difficulties in the home he had to leave school and work to supplement the family income. He completed the studies for his junior certificate by studying part time classes.
Frank regards his father, Solomon Ross, as a man of strict principles
and a role model for his own life. A 'Springbok' and a long distance runner,
Solomon trained Frank to run marathons.
"It was very hard for me", he reflects. Using the money from his retrenchment package he started a barber's shop in Paarl. Initially business was brisk; but in 1994 the stringent standards set by the Municipal Medical Office of Health were relaxed. It was no longer required that the shop owner have running water and toilet facilities. The de-regularization made it possible for a barber to set up business in a parked caravan. A new brand of entrepreneurs could offer a similar service to the public at a lower cost with a greater margin of profit. Frank's business was no longer competitive. He lost money and had to close.
"What has carried me over these years is my wife; she is the best!" says Frank. " We have always done things together. She is very neat and precise. She keeps our home clean and tidy. We have three children; Jerome, the eldest born in 1973, Angelique born in 1978 and Ashley born in 1984. Jerome works as a Prison Warden at Polsmoor Prison, Angelique is a clerk at the court and Ashley is still at school."
The loss of his business caused Frank a great deal of anguish. "While I was lying awake at night thinking about the losses, I thought I have a talent! They can take my business but this they cannot take away from me. I can paint!" He recalled the encouragement he received in art class at school from his art teacher Mr. Ronnie Hendriks and the appreciation with which friends and family had received his early gifts of paintings. Determined to make a success of this new venture Frank took odd jobs during the day such as working in his brother's garden and helping out where he could. He painted at night, selling his works cheaply for as little R20 or R30 to earn money to pay for paint.
Frank's approach to painting is uncomplicated and direct. He keeps no books on art in his home. He has had almost no formal tuition, is unaware of any conventions for portraying the human figure. His work is an original response to his environment. He was 'found' by the E'Bezweni Art Group (E.A.G.) in 1996 (The group was established in Paarl in October 1994 by Selwyn Pekeur, in association with Alby Bailey, Solomon Siko, Kerwin Cupido, Dylan Denyssen) Art Groups such as E'Bezweni and the earlier Vakalisa have provided a platform for emmerging talent in the so called coloured communities. Lacking the means for a formal art education Frank benefited from their meetings and workshops. These were marked by a vigorous climate of experimentation and lively discussion. The group influenced each other in areas such as the use of incised Supa-wood and choice of vibrant palette.
Two distinct approaches to art making become apparent in Frank's work. One is a spontaneous, emotive painterly approach: " I sketch the figure roughly and then I paint. As I work it comes together and then I can see what is happening" he explains. "Normally I see someone walking. I don't know where he is coming from, or how far. Most people have to walk a distance. If they want to do something, they do it. That's what gives me inspiration. They had nothing but they go on."
In these paintings strong brush strokes and visceral quality of the oil paints amplify his experience. "Colour is important to me. Red symbolises the unhappiness I associate with the land. There is always trouble. People have so many problems with land. Then there is the political trouble". The way is often uphill, the load heavy. He paints the roads through the Boland bordered by vineyards and wheat fields. He paints labourers toiling in the fields, women gathering
In a second, more decorative approach to art making Frank describes his subject in a regular, finely incised line on Supa wood panels, painted in vibrant colour. In these mural-like works the people journey along the roads and toil in the patchwork fields bordered by traceries of trees. The branches of the trees are matted and shaded by vigorous cross-hatching. Little houses punctuate the landscape. Paarl Rock looms as a landmark on the high horizon. The quick dry time of acrylic allows him to paint clear-cut edges, strongly contrasting shades and dense surface texture.
These graphic works contain elements that prevail in the diverse folk cultures of the world.. Not only decorative and pleasing to the eye, these artworks once set upon the walls of offices and homes further a sense of communal identity, vesting pride in a people's will to endure and overcome hardship. Frank speaks, in graphic terms, of the struggle to wrest a living from the land. He also conveys, through these furrowed board paintings, his deep-seated love of the land. In doing so he strikes a common chord of humanity originating from a unique African experience yet speaking quite specifically of the way things are in Paarl in the Western Cape.
Generally his figures face away from the viewer. His occasional portraits
reflect the deep-seated anguish he has experienced in the repeated reversal
of his fortune. These are generally of people and situations he knows
Reticent and courteous, Frank engages the viewer in his world.
Public, Corporate and Private Collection.
Barbara Lindop, J. Cole, Fedsure, S.A. National Treasury, Steven A. Einedorf Chief of Staff for the House Democratic Leader Washington D.C., Robin Luce.
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