The Sun is a Star by Dick Frizzell, with Samantha Lord
The sun is a star: a voyage through the universe is a new offering from beloved New Zealand artist Dick Fizzell that brings together science and art in a way that makes both more accessible.
Frizzell’s previous writing efforts have been celebrated for their ease of reading and interesting concepts presented. The same is the case for this new piece. The introductory notes explain that this new astronomical concept is the brainchild of a conversation between Frizzell and his seven year old grandchild sharing a love for our most important star, the sun.
As well as being a celebrated painter, it seems that Frizzell has other superlative talents. The first being the writing style of a seasoned storyteller, the second being a lifelong love of all things science and, specifically, the universe makeup, origin, exploration and possible futures. All of which are laid bare on the pages of this new book the sun is a star: a voyage through the universe.
New Zealand has a strong connection with the sun. Our Polynesian voyaging pioneers that first found New Zealand would have used the sun, as did Tasman and Cook (and, of course, Tupaia). Then the place the sun has within our own myth and legend with the celebrated Maui reigning in the recalcitrant ‘Rā’ to better use sunlight hours and just slow everything down. So it is understandable that such a significant amount of art is inspired by or dedicated to the sun. Throughout art history, both here in Aotearoa and around the world in many of the world’s great paintings, there is a proliferation of celebratory depictions of the sun.
Frizzell presents complex ideas in the body copy of the text with straightforward and ready to understand language. His knowledge for this area is impressive and deftly explained. Going into some depth around the big bang theory and dark matter - even going into some quantum physics at one point.
Each page is split into two, the first being the exploration of our universe’s history; the second is a selection of beautiful art works from Frizzell and associated artists that connect with the narrative of the whole work. Depictions range from a realism approach to an almost cartoonish style representation of the aforementioned Maui and the sun a la Peter Gossage.
Frizzell is erudite and funny in this piece and the paintings that are curated for the purpose are impressively diverse. Even Frizzell’s grandchildren are included in the artwork - a wonderful touch. Other artists include some of New Zealand’s finest: John Pule, Kal Maughan, Grahame Sydney, John Reynolds and Wayne Youle feature their work of celebrating the sun amongst the collection.
One may be surprised at what can be learned from this book. The level of research and the ease to which it is explored suggests a thorough and expert level of knowledge on Frizzell’s part. Who would have thought that more can be learned from a celebrated painter than from years at high school!
Perhaps there is opportunity for a spin off science career for the renowned painter. If the sun is a star: a voyage through the universe is anything to go by, then options are endless - and to the betterment of us all.
“The universe - and everything in it - is always expanding into tomorrow … what a scene, eh? More magic than magic. Magic, mysterious and beautiful. And here we are. On the third rock from the sun, figuring it out.” Dick Frizzell (the sun is a star)
Reviewer: Chris Reed
Massey University Press