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Interview: Frank Prskalo

"Dementia I," Acrylic on Canvas, 70cm x 50cm

1) Could you introduce yourself? Where are you from, and where did you study art? Are you a self-taught artist? When did you see yourself as an artist?

Hi, my name is Frank Prskalo, I am from St. Leonards, a small town in Victoria, Australia. I enjoy the calmness and quietude living in a small town. I grew up and lived in Melbourne western suburbs, a lot busier, though have been in St. Leonards since the end of 2016.

I studied art at The Victorian College of the Arts in the city of Melbourne between 1988 1990. Completed a Bachelor of Art in Fine Art with a major in painting. The art school building was part of the National Gallery of Victoria and being an art student from The Victorian College of the Arts I was fortunate to have free access all year round as a student. Thoroughly enjoyed visiting the National Gallery of Victoria on a consistent basis, learning from viewing paintings, being able to understand that confidence with art helps nourish one's art practice. Confidence meaning continually practicing art. I would go regularly and view the thick impasto Frank Auerbach painting. View other paintings too, for some reason the Auerbach stayed with me.

"Cheese-man," Acrylic on paper,76cm x 56cm

2) You do not want to box yourself and your art into a mold by having an artist statement. But what ties your work together? Is it the style or the subject matter or the materials and the techniques used? Are you disengaged from the contemporary discourse and critical theory? If you are living in the contemporary, post-modern era, yet you do not engage in contemporary discourse, is your art a revived form of "contemporary modernism" with contemporary materials and techniques?

An artist statement is a bit like a title for a movie – does the title really state what the movie is about or is it a theme of what the viewer is involved. My work evolves around colour, society, my own thought process's which are usually not conscious in the art making, my inspiration is other artists, society I live in, working from drawings – usually figurative, dreams. Boxing oneself in a corner is a bit like being compliant what society expects from an artist – a brand if that is how it might be put. Making art a particular way known to that artist's name. Philip Guston changed or moved from being an abstract painter to a figurative painter – some uproar amongst the art community at the time. Though the change in subject matter is what proved to be Philip Guston's happiest as it where he saw himself. He didn't box himself into a mould of some sorts. The subject matter is usually the focus though stating that the medium controls how the subject matter evolves. If I am working with ink pen(drawing) on white paper it is usually linear or sometimes vivid. If I am using colour the subject matter becomes more colourful. I find that many artists have these long artist's statement or that they state their art is about a particular topic though when the viewer or the art is viewed – it doesn't come across like their statement states it does. Hence I am not a firm believer in artist's statements. As I find it takes away from the art itself.

"Sea Figure," Acrylic on Paper, 76m x 56cm

3) What do you want to say through your art? What do you think your art is saying? How do your intention of what you want to express and what your art may be saying be different? How are they aligned in other ways? Is it important for the artist's intention to be fully reflected in the art, or is your art open to multiple interpretations?

I am seeking a particular vision when I am drawing or painting. Vision is a somewhat personal word at the time of producing art as it is only the artist that recognizes what is being made introspectively. I find that my work can be about self-exploration, self-portraits that are not realism and that this is not intentional. When I see the artwork later this comes across, though it is not always true as I am not always aware of what I am producing only that I am seeking some kind of finished vision product.

4) In your treatment of human sexuality, you merge somewhat grotesque cartoonist-ic forms and imaginative colors of street art and graffiti to express your ideas and emotions. But a sense of idealization and idealized beauty - both of which are traditionally associated with visions of sexuality at the level of fantasy - are absent from your works. What does this sense or philosophy of realness or realism about sexuality that seeps through your cartoonist-ic forms have to offer that idealized and fantasy-based sexuality that operates on the level of ideal beauty fails to provide?

A bit like Robert Crumb cartoons or Robert Mappelthorpe photography, or Leon Golub paintings. Interrogation II by Leon Golub is a glorified picture of a man naked being interrogated by four men. The painting is almost ritual in a sense that it appears accepted by society. Or Robert Mappelthorpe photo's of Lisa Lyon. Images that show a woman whom is a body builder portraying strength and the beauty of female physicality. Society usually shuns female physicality though Robert Mappelthorpe was able to capture beauty and grace in Lisa Lyon. George Grosz produced grotesque drawings of Berlin in Germany after the 1st World War which were true in nature and unjust or hidden from moral society. Soldiers came

back form war traumatized; Grosz depicted the city of Berlin how it was in a grotesque society due to traumatized returned soldiers. Beauty is somewhat personal to each person and can be normalized to a culture or society, e.g., where hair is shunned in one culture it is revered in another culture. My pictures do not show an idealized beauty as it is not a true depiction of what beauty is. Peter Booth pictures in the 1980's one could state are grotesque – a man eating an arm, people gathering watching two headless people fight. To me this is beauty as it is depicting dreams from our unconscious. Peter Booth made a lot of art from his dreams, he had a journal and would write down his dreams , turn them into artworks.

"Torso," Acrylic and enamel on paper, 76cm x 56cm

5) How do you transform and refine graffiti, scribbles, paint splatters, and the kind of images that people say "my kid could do it" into higher art form? What differentiates your art, which appears to draw from expressionism, neo-expressionism, primitivism, and abstract expressionism, from the art of children, or as Hans Prinzhorn argues in the "Artistry of the Mentally Ill," does there appear to be a great deal of similarity and connection or relatedness between the art of modern movements (and contemporary offshoots), the art of children, and the art of the mentally ill?

It is the question that was stated previously – why don't you conform to an artist's statement. My art is not based on still life – it is based on many differentials. Humans are greedy, always wanting more, there has been war since the start of mankind. Tribes attacking each other, then it became states and nations attacking and conquering. My art is derived from many aspects of society which I piece together – figurative and abstract together in a narrative of some sort which I am mostly not aware of. Though society bombards the populace with constant imagery and information – a lot being negative and dark. The art of mentally ill I admire ; making art is not something a mentally ill person thinks about when producing art – there is an innocence about it. A mentally ill person doesn't think that they are drawing – they are mainly free flowing with materials using basic art techniques. Society though classifies mentally ill art as art brut or naïve art. Yes there is a connection and relatedness between art of modern movements and the art of children and the art of mentally ill. Though society depicts and classifies art movements just like society asks for artist statements. It places artists on a higher level like society does with actors, actressess, sportspeople, CEO's.

6) You discussed in an earlier interview that you have a mental illness which affects your artistic process. How is your art a reflection of your own self and your own life? How do you try to find or impose order onto the chaos that an observer on the outside might describe as "beautiful," or meaningful? How is mental illness fetishized and glorified as a beautiful and meaningful part of an artist life? Is a tormented artist the true artist?

Trick question, I have dyspraxia, which is not really a mental illness though a motor condition. I find it hard to concentrate on one job at a time, short term memory is affected, planning skills are a miss, spatial awareness – I tend to get lost when driving at times and easily get confused. Motor skills are affected, tying shoelaces, buttoning up a shirt. Reading is also affected, many times I understand the meanings of words wrongly,eg, live concert – I always read it as it is living concert, using the word 'live' wrongly. On the plus side dyspraxia has given me a strong creative side. So I suppose it helps there. I am not sure about the notion of a tormented artist is a true artist. Henri Matisse was a legal clerk before he took drawing classes in the mornings before he went to work in a law office. Afterwards he became a full time artist. I don't believe in idolising the artist. This becomes pedestal mentality. Yes it was difficult

at art school as the lecturer's would drill into you that you are an artist – though I knew I was a student. At what time does an artist become an artist ?

"Nervous Wreck," Acrylic on Paper, 76cm x 56cm

7) What is your instinct with color like throughout the process of painting? Do you see a color choice form inside your mind and/or vision as you paint? How do you arrive at the color choices in your painitngs?

Yes I see a colour choice from inside my mind when painting or drawing. I usually have a drawing or painting I am working on and put it aside to let it dry, I come back to it when it has dried to add more colour so colours become distinct on their own and not muddy. Colour being distinct and clean allow the picture to be more true and clear. This way colour/s bounce of each other like a portrait painting in a strong realism manner ;as good portrait usually has a lot depth in the picture, colour can create depth too.

"Concentrating," Acrylic on Canvas, 35cm x 28cm

8) What is a breakthrough work for you among your past and recent works? Do you always strive upwards and to push yourself forward as an artist? When do you anticipate a next breakthrough to come to you as an artist?

I had a breakthrough last year when I was painting with spray cans using metal enamel spray which is really bright and clean in colour, as it is made to last on metal. I used small drawings as pre-drawings/sketches for the paintings. This enabled me to concentrate on the paintings which were 1.2m x 1.2m. Using pre-drawings kept me focussed – the pre-drawings were not to be exact though they kept me from not waning too much. It was quite difficult as I am used to changing mid term and thereafter as well on the same work. I completed 12 pictures, though the 12th picture didn't work as I overworked it way too much and lost control of the painting. So staying focused helped - even though it was very difficult. The paintings were on display at The Space Gallery in Geelong, Vic, Australia. Yes, I usually push myself, striving to produce pictures that are more balanced than previous works. I do at times advise myself that less is more, though having space in a picture adds a balance to an artwork – just like having space in a garden – so it is not over planted. Having stated this I find that I want more in a picture and many times find it hard to know when a picture is completed. I have recently been producing colour drawings, using acrylic markers on gesso ground watercolour paper. Having gesso on the watercolour paper has given the paper a ground for the acrylic colour markers to sit on, so the colour is sitting on top and quite strong – clear – bold. I have been doing linear drawings of faces and or shapes – adding colour as I go along. Letting the work dry and coming back to it later on. So colour is clean and truly part of the picture.

"Ecstacy," Acrylic on paper, 76cm x 56cm

9) Who are your favorite artists who influence you? You mentioned Philip Guston in a previous interview. Is Keith Haring another important artist for you? How about Cy Twombly? Or Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Phillip Guston has influenced me more than the others mentioned as he used colour intelligently in his figurative works which brought them to light. Howard Arkley is an Australian artist that really inspired me with his strong graphic like colour imagery. He used an air brush with pastel colours of suburban landscape/houses. Bringing the suburban house and the living in it to life. Peter Booth is another Australian artist (English born) who influenced my work with his dark imagery and use of tonal techniques in his work. Francis Bacon is an artist that I admire with his use of space and the figure. The figure being no one though someone. The quasiness of the pictures.

"dementia," pencil on paper, 76cm x 56cm

10) What are your goals and dreams as an artist? As a person? How do you strive to make the world a better place? Is your art an instrumental part of your contribution to society, culture, the world, and the cosmos? Or do you see it as simply a limited vehicle for expression and self-exploration? Has your art helped or guided you in some way? And do you anticipate your art to do greater things and wonders for you and the people around you in the future? Are you an idealist or realist? Are you an optimist or pessimist?

My dream as an artist is to be painting / making art full time, that said, I know as a goal it is very difficult. To make the world a better place I try and be happy and give off happiness to others – not that it is always apparent, as you have to be aware of yourself. I find my art is part of me, pushing it into the world is a bit narcissistic though it is what artists do – pushing themselves into the wider audience of the world. Making statements, 'here I am'. I do see it as a vehicle of self exploration though society has so many norms within it that being oneself is always difficult. Art has guided me to always come back to art, I have had many a paid job though I have always come back to art – if that makes any sense. It has guided me to be who I am. I don't classify myself as one or the other and find it difficult when attending art meetings that the speakers state that there is no money for the arts. I tend to think that people are sick in hospital, terminally ill, car accidents, people are suffering and at art meetings people are stating that there is no money and they are unable to work as an artist and they're identity as an artist is suffering. Very self centered – narcissist. I am a an optimist as I would love to be living from my artwork though I understand it is quite difficult to do that.

"Out on a Limb," Acrylic on paper, 76cm x 56cm

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