Solace installation 2014 - SCA studio

Kath Fries, Solace, 2014, beeswax on window, sunlight and shadow, SCA studio

Recently, I've been continuing my Solace series of installations in my studio at Sydney College of the Arts, Rozelle. Working with sheets of beeswax to create patterns with transient sunlight and shadows, like a sundial, this work traces the passage of time. 

Kath Fries, Solace, 2014, beeswax on window, sunlight and shadow, SCA studio

Beeswax is a material in a constant state of flux, changing from brittle to malleable and opaque to translucent, with just a few degrees difference in temperature. When warmed beeswax gives off a delicious honey scent and reminds me that people all over the world have worked with bees, their hives, wax and honey since ancient times.

Kath Fries, Solace, 2014, beeswax on window, sunlight and shadow, SCA studio

The wax patterning in Solace links back to the structure of the hive where the beeswax originated, and where worker bees danced on it in precise figure-eight shapes to communicate the location of pollinating flowers in relation to the position of the sun. 

Kath Fries, Solace, 2014, beeswax on window, sunlight and shadow, SCA studio

Solace reflects on the passage of time, moment to moment as the shifting angles of sunlight penetrate the interior space. It also looks back to a long historical relationship between humans and bees, implying concern for the future and our complex, fragile intricate interconnections with both our micro and macro environments.

Kath Fries, Solace, 2014, shadow - detail view, SCA studio

Kath Fries, Solace - trace, 2014, beeswax on window, sunlight and shadow, SCA studio

Kath Fries, Solace - trace, 2014, beeswax on window, sunlight and shadow, SCA studio

Previous versions of Solace were installed last year at Murrary's Cottage in Hill End and also at Archive Space in Newtown, link.

John Fries Award 2014 - finalists announced



The 2014 John Fries Award finalists are: Abdul Abdullah, Justin Balmain, Ella Barclay, Tim Bruniges, Julian Day, Omar Chowdhury, George Egerton-Warburton, Marc Etherington, Hamishi Farah, Heath Franco, Samuel Hodge, Anna Horne, Juz Kitson, Anna Kristensen, Bridie Lunney, Daniel McKewen, Beryline Mung, Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Alair Pambegan, Kate Scardifield, Marilyn Schneider, Jacqui Shelton, Jason Wing and Kentaro Yamada.


The winner of the 5th John Fries Award will be announced at 7pm, Tuesday 12 August at the Finalists Exhibition,  Galleries UNSW, COFA in Paddington, Sydney.

Sebastian Goldspink (the 2014 JFA guest curator and judge), said “The calibre of entries for this year’s award set a new standard. I was surprised, delighted and slightly overwhelmed by the prospect of whittling down the record 546 entries to a shortlist of 88, and then, with my fellow judges, to the 24 finalists. There was a genuine sense of excitement in the judging room.”

The finalists come from all over Australia and New Zealand, and their work includes painting, sculpture, installation, video and a live performance work.

“The John Fries Award always delivers something unexpected,” says Goldspink. “The artists display extraordinary imagination and take risks and I know everyone will be keenly watching and waiting for this year’s exhibition at Galleries UNSW, COFA."
"It's a fantastic celebration of the strength and diversity of Australasian emerging art!”

The prize was established by the Fries family in memory of former Viscopy director and honorary treasurer, John Fries, who made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of the organisation.

Judges for the 2014 award are: Sebastian Goldspink, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Jess Olivieri, Kath Fries and Megan Cope. 
JFA 2014 sponsors include: International Art Services, 10 group, Little Creatures Brewery and Small Acres Cyder.

Chippendale New World Art Prize, 8 - 24 May 2014

I'm one of the finalists in the 2014 Chippendale New World Art Prize, opening Thursday 8th May 6-8pm. The selected artworks all respond to the theme of Utopia, individual perceptions and interpretations of a 'New World'.

Chippendale New World Art Prize invitation

Philanthropist and Chairman of Frasers Property Australia Dr Stanley Quek will announce the winner at 7pm. Judged by Archibald Winner Del Kathryn Barton and Dean and Director of COFA Ross Harley, the prize is a three month residency grant at Joya:arte+ecologĂ­a in Spain.

The exhibition will span three locations: NG Art Gallery; L1 Central Pop Up Gallery; Carlton Street, Park Lane Pop-Up Gallery. www.chippendalecreative.com/2014-chippendale-new-world-art-prize-finalists

Chippendale New World Art Prize map of locations and artists

My entry, Whisper conjures a yearning for continuous serenity, which can sometimes be found - only momentarily - in the quiet contemplation of nature. This self-contained intimate installation features a dissected clay vessel containing video footage of water flowing slowly past a tranquil riverbank, reflecting the trees and sky above. Externally this dull brown clay object is as unremarkable as the mythical genie’s bottle, camouflaged as everyday clutter and quickly dismissed by a casual passer-by. But projected within the vessel there is a continuous moment of quiet mediative contemplation, an idyllic notion of Utopia where one is able to attain this human desire to be at one with nature. Whisper’s hand-made, hand-sized receptacle lends a personal embodied notion of physically touching and holding this particular moment of engagement with the natural world. The video’s looped repetition takes this moment out of the flux and flow of time as we usually experience it. Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, said that you can never step in the same river twice, yet thousands of years later we still continue to aspire to pause the passage of time and search for a permanent state of perfection.

Kath Fries, Whisper, 2014
you can view the video component on line vimeo.com/92002590

Whisper will be exhibited at Carlton Street Park Lane Pop-Up Gallery, 8 - 24 May, as part of the Chippendale New World Art Prize. 

Call for entries - 2014 John Fries Award

The 2014 John Fries Award is currently calling for entries. The entry criteria has been simplified this year, so if you consider yourself to be an emerging or early career artist then you're eligible to enter. 

John Fries was my father. He worked pro-bono for some not for profit organisations, including Viscopy as treasurer and board director. The John Fries Award was initiated in 2009 by the Viscopy Board of Directors and my family. Viscopy/Copyright Agency runs the award and the 2014 Finalists Exhibition will be held at UNSW Galleries CoFA in August. I'm currently on the Viscopy Board, chair the John Fries Award committee and on the judging panel.


To enter and find out more go to www.viscopy.org.au/john-fries-award - entries close Monday 5 May 2014.


2014 John Fries Award call for entries poster (artwork by Svetlana Bailey, 2013 finalist)

John Fries, 1943 – 2009

John was born in Dehra Dun, India, 10 March 1943. He recalled his early childhood impressions of living in Calcutta with a Rudyard-Kipling-like magical aura. When India gained independence in 1947, the Fries family, along with most Anglo-Indian’s, felt compelled to leave India. After much discussion they decided to move to Australia and the family settled in Coogee. As fledgling fresh-off-the-boat immigrants, John and his brother explored their unfamiliar neighbourhood with glee, on land and in the water. John learnt to swim in the Pacific Ocean at Coogee Beach and Wiley's Baths – he became a strong swimmer and beach enthusiast for the rest of his life. John attended Coogee Boys Prep School then Sydney Boys High School, where his ambitious nature became apparent in his studies and competitive team sports, especially rugby and rowing. John's love of physical activities extended to skiing, hiking, kayaking and cycling – even in retirement he was meticulous about recording and besting his own personal times and distances.

John began his career in the finance industry as a commercial trainee with BHP, while holding down additional jobs and attending night school at UNSW where he gained an Honours Degree in Commerce. John met his future wife Vivienne when travelling to America in 1970. They subsequently had many adventures together, working and travelling both in the USA and UK, then touring Europe in a green kombi van, affectionately named The Flea - a cherished vehicle despite its numerous breakdowns. In 1974 they returned to Australia, married and had two daughters, Vanessa and Katherine. John and his young family moved back to London in 1984, where John was appointed the International Treasurer for TNT. During their four years in London the family embraced the city’s arts and culture, snowy winters and proximity to Europe - often travelling there for holidays. In 1988, the family moved back to Sydney, where John became Finance Director for MacIlwraith McEacharn. As well as focusing on his career, John encouraged Vivienne’s interests in pursuing university studies and charity work aboard, while he took over some domestic chores and responsibilities of teenage daughters. At this time John also became a Justice of the Peace, but whether that helped in family disputes is debatable. John was by then the National Finance Director for Vodafone, seeing Vodafone through their initial growth spurt as the mobile phone industry gathered momentum, 1993-2000.

John was a keen traveller for work and holidays throughout his life; visiting Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and South Africa; cycling in Vietnam, Tasmania and New Zealand. He chased the snow around the globe - skiing in the Dolomites, Pyrenees, Sierra Nevada’s, Japan, European Alps, New Zealand and The Rockies. John and Vivienne followed the Rugby World Cup to Europe in 2007, although he supported the Wallabies and Vivienne barracked for the All Blacks. They also spent many holidays in Vivienne’s hometown of Nelson, New Zealand, which became a second home for John. At 63 he undertook a much-anticipated intrepid adventure with an old friend, along the Silk Road from Beijing to Moscow. The following year John sailed across the Tasman, from Sydney to Auckland, part of a three-man crew captained by his mate from high school. John said this was one of the most physically, emotionally and mentally challenging experiences of his life.

As well as travelling, on retirement John became involved in Rotary focusing on fundraising for international projects, and was invited to become an independent director for a number of organisations, including pro-bono positions with Viscopy and the NSW Red Cross. In 2000, John brought his financial expertise and pro-active rigour to his work at the Red Cross. His commitment to the humanitarian principles and altruistic ideals of the Red Cross, lead to him being appointed NSW Chairman in 2007 and a Director on the National Red Cross Board. John received a posthumous Red Cross Distinguished Service Award in October 2009.
John’s unexpected and tragic death in 2009 deeply affected his family, friends and colleagues. Both NSW Red Cross and Viscopy established annual John Fries memorial awards in 2009. And in 2010, the Rotary Club of Darling Harbour completed their fresh water well project in Nimpith, West Bengal. It was dedicated The John Fries Memorial Well – as John had been pivotal in the fundraising for this project.

The John Fries Award for Emerging Visual Artists was jointly initiated by the Viscopy Board and the Fries family, in recognition of the formative influence that John had on the development of Viscopy. John was invited to join the board of Viscopy in 2004 because of his financial expertise and business skills. Although he had always been broadly interested in arts and culture, John’s interest in contemporary visual arts related mostly to his daughter’s art practice. As an accountant with extensive experience in the corporate environment, John’s contributions to the Viscopy board were anchored in his realistic and forward-looking attitude and his empathetic understanding of the financial challenges that face visual artists. The Fries family continues to work with Viscopy in building this award, commemorating John’s generosity and his pragmatic approach to supporting his family, friends and colleagues in developing their skills, exploring opportunities and pursuing their dreams.
Kath Fries, 2014
www.viscopy.org.au/john-fries-biography

John Fries at the beach in 2006, photo by Kath Fries

RIGHTNOW - supporting artists resale royalty rights

I'm participating in RIGHTNOW - an exhibition of work by 100 Australian artists supporting the Artists' Resale Royalty Scheme. 

RIGHTNOW exhibition invitation, artwork: David Frank, Ngura.

RIGHTNOW9 - 27 April 2014
Boomalli Gallery: 55-59 Flood St, Leichhardt
Artists include: Adam Hill, Adam Norton, Alan Jones, Alec Baker, Anne Zahalka, Anthony Bennett, Anthony Lister, Arone Meeks, Atipalku Intjalki, Betty Muffler, Bronwyn Bancroft, Bruce Parker, Bugai Whyoulter, Chris Horder, Craig Waddell, Dadda Samson, Dan Hollier, Danny Eastwood, David Frank, Derek Thompson, Dianne Robinson, Douglas Abbott, Gloria Pannka, Gria Shead, Helen Samson Dale, Hilary Wirri, Ivy Pareroultja, Jakayu Biljabu, Jake Soewardie, James Drinkwater, James Guppy, Jamie Eastwood, Jason Benjamin, Jason Wing, Jasper Knight, Jatarr Lily Long, Jennifer Whiskey, Jenny Fraser, John Aslanidis, John Wolseley, Juan Ford, Judith Samson Anya, Julian Meagher, Kath Fries, Kerry Anne Robinson, Kevin Wirri, Laura Jones, Lenie Namatjira, Luke Cornish, Luke Sciberras, Mabel Wakarta, Maisie King, Mandy Martin, Marie Abbott, Mark Rodda, Martine Emdur, Matthew Johnson, Melinda Harper, Mervyn Rubuntja, Michael Johnson, Ngunytjima Carroll, Nicholas Harding, Nora Nungabar, Nora Wompi, Nyarrie Morgan, Peter Alwast, Peter Mungkuri, Peter Taylor, Petrina Hicks, PhilJames, Reg Mombassa, Remnim Alexander Tayco, Renita Stanley, Robert Boynes, Rosalind Tjanyari, Selma Coulthard, Tiger Yaltangki, Ungakini Tjangala, Whiskey Tjukangku and artists from the Tangentyere, Tjala Arts and Maningrida.

Please support the artists' resale royalty scheme by visiting the exhibition or signing the online petition www.resalerightnow.wordpress.com/sign-the-petition/


The Artist Resale Royalty Scheme began in Australia in June 2010, enabling artists to receive 5% income from their artworks when resold. The scheme was reviewed last year and it now seems that the current Federal Government wants to scrap it. One of the main reasons the scheme was brought into law was to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists who often sell their artworks for very low sums of money - so while their artworks may have increased in value, the artists didn't earn any of that revenue. Many of these artists live in poverty while their artworks are traded for hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Since the scheme began it has generated over $2.28 million in royalties for more than 820 artists. Indigenous artists have received 50% of the total royalties generated and represent 26 of the 50 artists who have received the most money under the scheme.

'Decant' - reviews and interviews

On Sunday morning I chatted to Jayne Cheeseman on her program Rockin' the Suburbs, FBi radio 94.5FM. We talked about my residency and exhibition at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery, and some of the other suburban and out of town projects that I've worked on over the past few years. 
You can listen to the program at www.fbiradio.com/program/sunday-overhang > 9/3/14.


~


Kath Fries and her installation 'Decant'
March 2014, photo Tim Clapin


Frances Sacco interviewed me at the gallery last Monday and there was a hilarious photo-shot with photo-journalist Tim Clapin. I was directed to lie down on the floor and pose amongst my installation - I struggled to contain my giggles and that resulted in these smiley in these photos that appeared, along with a little write up about my show, in this week's local paper.


Interview with Frances Sacco, Fairfield Advance
March 2014, Source: News Limited (link to webpage)

~

"This comprehensive installation by Kath Fries at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery combines archival collection with artistic invention. By casting unfired clay multiples from two Chinese ewer fragments sourced from the museum’s permanent collection, Fries not only highlights the effect of time and preservation in ascribing value to everyday objects, but also challenges the notion of permanence and truth when dealing with historical artefacts. What is especially appealing is Fries’ considered treatment of the materials. Through the intimacy of digital projections and the repurposing of vines and natural fibres, the installation becomes almost biblical. By reimagining local histories, the collective mythologies of floods, human displacement and the decay of clay vessels goes beyond a literal reading of history and transforms the museum’s artefacts into art." 
Sydney Art Blog 


Sydney Art review of Decant
http://sydneyart.me/2014/03/15/kath-fries-decant-fairfield-city-museum-and-gallery/

'Decant' - GO WEST with Art Month Sydney

I'm delighted that Decant is part of Art Month Sydney 2014. This Saturday's GO WEST bus tour explores the contemporary art scene in Western Sydney and stops off at Fairfield City Museum and Gallery, where I'll be giving a short talk about my work.

Art Month Sydney 2014 logo

Each March, Art Month celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of contemporary art in Sydney by throwing open the gallery doors and presenting over 200 exhibitions and events. During March, Art Month Sydney invites you try new art experiences, visit Sydney's varied art spaces and explore contemporary art questions. Grab some friends, visit some galleries and have a local adventure. Everyone's invited. 


 GO WEST: Bus Tour, Art Month Sydney 2014 website screenshot
www.artmonthsydney.com.au/tours/go-west-bus-tour 

GO WEST: Bus Tour

Back by popular demand! Explore Western Sydney’s art precinct with a guided bus tour and day trip to major galleries including Campbelltown Arts Centre, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Fairfield Museum and Art Gallery, Parramatta Artists Studios and Blacktown Arts Centre. This tour will feature talks, performances and interactions from artists who live and work locally.

This tour will leave from the Art Gallery of New South Wales steps.
Saturday 15 March 2014, 10am - 5pm, FREE - book online www.artmonthsydney.com.au/tours/go-west-bus-tour

The tour hosts will be tweeting live from the event. To join the conversation use #amsgowest


Kath Fries DECANT, Art Month Sydney website screenshot
www.artmonthsydney.com.au/exhibitions/decant

'Decant' opening - Sophia Kouyoumdjian

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, detail view - inside one of the "meta-objects",
raw earthenware paper clay and ink

"… Decant is undergoing a continual process of change, Kath has effectively married the process of making art with that of presenting art. So as viewers of the supposedly final work, we are privy to elements of its making… these meta-objects continue to change and disintegrate in real-time. The clay works are unfired, and through a process of pouring water though them, the artist has eloquently instigated the cycle of creation and destruction… Kath imbues the work with a narrative of the everyday and of nature with which we connect, affording us all the privilege to partake in the process of making and the transformative impact of artistic production." 

Sophia Kouyoumdjian, Parramatta Artists Studios Co-ordinator
(extract from opening speech, 26 Feb 2014)


Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, detail view - one of the "meta-objects" slowly dissolving,
raw earthenware paper clay, ink, water and perspex cube

Decant: 22 February - 12 April 2014
Stein Gallery, Fairfield City Museum and Gallery
632 The Horsely Dr, Smithfield, NSW 2164. Tues - Sat: 10am - 4pm

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, detail view - inside one of the "meta-objects", 
raw earthenware paper clay and ink

I would like to thank Sophia Kouyoumdjian for her insightful speech at the 'Decant' exhibition opening event, and Fairfield City Museum and Gallery for commissioning this installation.

'Decant' exhibition installation, 2014

My FCMG artist-in-residence project, Decant, has culminated in an installation that recalls the path of the Prospect Creek and the notion of flowing water as a metaphor for the passage of time. Just as I poured water through my ceramic replicas to erode their surfaces, there is similarly a suggested trace of water having flowed through the gallery space in the residue of the dry clay beds and linear flood debris on the walls. Visitors are encouraged to crouch on the floor and look closely at the dissected ceramic replicas and intimate video projections. Although cast from the same moulds, each of these ceramic  pieces is individually marked by time, erosion, cracks and ink stains. 

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay, ink, mirrors, perspex, water,  wire,
found materials, sound and video projection. Total installation dimensions 6.2 x 7.27x 19.12 m

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay, ink, mirrors, perspex, water,  wire, 
found materials, sound and video projection. Total installation dimensions 6.2 x 7.27x 19.12 m

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay, ink, mirrors, perspex, water,  wire, 
found materials, sound and video projection. (detail view)

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay, ink and
sound and video projection. (detail view)

Decant 2014 is an exhibition of sculptural and installation work by Fairfield City Museum & Gallery's inaugural artist in residence, Kath Fries. Responding to objects in the Museum’s collection that were found on the banks of Prospect Creek, Decant 2014 explores how the passage of time and containment of memories can be poetically reflected in the residue and trace of pouring water.

22 February - 12 April 2014
Stein Gallery, Fairfield City Museum and Gallery
632 The Horsely Dr, Smithfield, NSW 2164. Tues - Sat: 10am - 4pm 


Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay and ink (detail view)

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay and ink (detail view)

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay and ink (detail view)

Curator's catalogue foreword

Decant is an exhibition of sculptural and installation work by Fairfield City Museum & Gallery’s inaugural artist in residence, Kath Fries. Responding to objects in the Museum’s collection that were found on the banks of Prospect Creek, Decant explores how the passage of time and containment of memories can be poetically reflected in the residue and trace of pouring water.

Kath Fries, a Sydney based artist who works with a site-responsive process across installation, sculpture and drawing, has created a series of site-sensitive works which reference a number of Chinese ewers from the Museum’s collection. The subsequent work enables viewers to engage with items from the Museum’s collection in a new and thought provoking way.

Fairfield City Museum & Gallery’s collection is unique in that it documents the social history of the Fairfield area and highlights the impact that migration has had in creating a vastly multicultural Western Sydney. These Chinese ewers are symbols of the long and varied history of migration in the Fairfield Local Government Area (LGA), which began with early European colonists, and led to the transformation of the region into what was to become the signature produce of the area: grapevines, market gardens, dairies and poultry farms. Prospect Creek itself was a vital food source for the traditional owners of the area, the Cabrogal people, and also played an integral role in providing the Fairfield LGA with a rich plant, aquatic, hunting and farming environment*, which attracted and still attracts many migrant families. Fairfield has become a cultural mosaic made from the footsteps of many communities as they arrive, survive and continue to live in the area.

Fairfield City Museum & Gallery is one of Fairfield City’s greatest resources, at the forefront of creating and representing interpretations and exhibitions about our past, heritage, and of our culturally diverse communities.

Helen Johnson
Social History & Exhibitions Curator, 
Fairfield City Museum & Gallery Fairfield City Council

*Stephen Gapps, ‘Cabrogal to Fairfield City, A history of a multicultural community’, 2010



Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay, ink, found materials,
sound and video projection. (detail view)

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay, ink and
sound and video projection. (detail view)


Decant - catalogue essay

Kath Fries’ intricate installation works are transient settings created primarily through the artist’s reflections on and responses to the world around her. Fries describes her work as ‘site-sensitive’; an outcome achieved whereby the artist quietly inserts herself into any given environment, explores its physical elements, investigates its social, political, historical context, and then discovers the unlikeliest fragment that is merely one small, seemingly insignificant component of the larger picture. And it is from this point that Fries creates; as though she has uncovered an unknown treasure and delights in deciphering its mysteries and artistic possibilities for herself.

Fries’ work is akin to the Arte Povera movement of the 1960s and 70s, the proponents of which had, at their core, the desire to break down the “dichotomy between art and life” * and to shun the institutional systems which nurtured the commercialisation and POPularisation of art. Theirs was a movement which focused on building micro-environments where various and apparently unrelated aspects of the everyday – particularly nature – cohabited with those of high art; and further, where the viewer’s interaction was paramount to the realisation of the work of art.

As a contemporary incarnation of Arte Povera, Fries’ practice combines labour-intensive process with found objects. In the artist’s micro-environments, objects, ideas and specimens that are often overlooked are given credence. Here, Fries creates intersections where art and the quotidian are considered under the same spotlight in order to invite the viewer to contemplate such innocuous items as holistic elements rather than merely fragments of the everyday.

Charged with leading Fairfield City Museum & Gallery in a more contemporary direction, Fries was given free rein over the museum’s collection of artefacts to channel her particular knack for reinterpreting non-art objects into art that activates the gallery space. What she uncovered was characteristically ‘Fries’ – two bulbous-shaped ceramic bottles, of Chinese origin, found in 1986, having once contained soy sauce or rice wine.

Decant is both a continuation of Fries’ ongoing themes of impermanence and memory, and a statement about the significance of the ewers to the rich socio-historical landscape of the local region. Fries’ installation consists of a series of crudely-constructed clay pots which have been moulded from the original ewers and delicately dissected. These replicas float on top of artificial clay beds which meander through the gallery, imitating the path of Prospect Creek, the site of the ewers’ discovery. An assemblage of bark, twigs and leaves, found on the banks of the creek, trail along the gallery walls, while sounds and video imagery of the water’s flow permeate from a miniature projection which escapes through openings of ewer replicas. Decant is a wholly encapsulating installation which draws the viewer into a space concocted through the intermingling of nature and artifice.

Most interesting are the ewer replicas from which the artwork received its name. Decanting – a fancy word for pouring – was the process by which Fries sought to imbue each identical replica with individual markings; to make each unique – or at least have the appearance of uniqueness. Once removed from their silicone moulds, the clay replicas were subject to the time-consuming process of having water continuously poured into them, in an act which mirrors the natural course of water through any landmass, whereby the earth is eventually transformed by the water’s constant flow. In Fries’ studio practice, the gushing of water onto unfired clay led to the erosion of the replicas, causing them to crack and break under the water’s pressure. And if the process were to be continued, the clay would simply dissolve and be returned to the earth.

The clay ewers have endless possibilities. They can be decoded, unpacked and analysed in a myriad of tangents that relate to Fairfield’s rich social fabric and its diverse peoples past and present; to the endless metaphorical significances of water itself; to the artist’s unusual process of making them as unfired, unfinished replicas of objects themselves long-discarded and obsolete; to the binary relationship between art and the everyday; and to the history of Postmodern and Contemporary art which at once accepts and rejects the notion of the unoriginal, the copy as art. Seeped in black writing ink, the ewers also reference traditional Chinese water painting, and more broadly, the act of writing itself – of recorded, forgotten and unknown stories.

Decant is thematically rich and invites the viewer’s interaction from many different, even competing, angles. But essentially, the work invokes a personal engagement with its materiality, forms, subject matter and the physicality of the space. Indeed, the success of Decant is derived from the surreal experience of being within the work’s artificial landscape, which strangely seems natural nonetheless. Fries has presented a site where art intermingles easily with remnants of the everyday, prompting us to consider the overlooked fragments – tangible and otherwise – which shape our own daily experiences.

Vi Girgis
Freelance Arts Writer & Casula Powerhouse Acting Producer Public Programs and Education

*Germano Celant, ‘Arte Povera: Notes for a Guerilla War’ in Flash Art, no. 5, 1967.

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay and ink (detail view)


Decant 2014, FCMG exhibition information panel,
Design: Ye Win, Text: Helen Johnson

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay and ink (detail view)

Kath Fries, Decant, 2014, earthenware paper clay and ink (detail view)

I would like to thank Fairfield City Museum and Gallery for this commission and the opportunity of being their inaugural artist-in-residence.

All photographs posted on this blog have been taken by Kath Fries, unless credited otherwise.