The iconoclastic art inspiring the next generation

Clown masks with wild eyes and bared teeth peer over students as incense smoke fills their nostrils and Foreigner's rock hits play overhead.

For the first time in 20 years, Australian artist Dale Frank will showcase his work at a public institution in an exhibition designed to crowd the senses.

Frank is one of the nation's most successful conceptual artists, having been exhibited in New York City's Guggenheim Museum, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand over his 40-year career.

An artwork made up of clown faces baring their teeth.
Dale Frank's artwork is known to push boundaries.

And from Friday, more than 40 looming works will line the galleries of the National Art School (NAS) in Sydney, for art students and public viewers alike, for his show Dale Frank: Growers and Showers.

From vent ducts springing out of a two-metre tall mirror, to a four square metre canvas of blond wigs, NAS senior curator Katrina Cashman says Frank has always been at the forefront of art experimentation.

"He's extremely well known for his irreverent, iconoclastic approach," she said.

"We have such a global environment now where we have influences from all over the world, but he's been working in that manner well before the internet".

Some of Dale Franks' artworks.
Dale Frank's art, which can be seen at a public exhibition from Friday, crosses over many mediums.

Many of his poured varnish works tug on viewers' tendencies to see faces in everyday objects, others poke fun at artistic conventions.

One, titled "Wayne always could see creatures in his first dark piss of a morning" shows a white blob with yellow splodges that could be interpreted as eyes, and a green splatter that almost looks like a mouth in awe.

Another that looks like a pastel elevation map is called "Sam squatting in Mirabad Valley over a hand dug latrine pants around his ankles mastabating [sic] as he imagines his best mate back in Wodonga f***ing Cheryl his fiance".

Cashman says these long and meandering captions were like a "secondary narrative".

"Our eyes are taking in the artwork and our mind is thinking of another additional story that is attached to that work," she said.

"Whether we're repulsed, or whether we dive into the title, by pure association we imagine our own stories."

Despite the provocative and almost intrusive nature of his art, NAS gallery curator Olivia Sophia says Frank is a relatively quiet and reserved artist.

The 64-year-old rarely offers interviews and his studio's Instagram page contains only a few glimpses of the artist.

But that is because the art speaks for itself.

"He pushes the medium as far as it can go, he learns it intimately and once he's understood the medium, he starts looking for the next straight away," Sophia said.

And NAS Director Steven Alderton hopes students take inspiration from this as they shape the future of art.

"It's really good for students to see that diversity of practice extends beyond the picture plane."

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