Bernard Frize

5 Sep 1998 - 3 Jan 1999
work in collection

In France, where painting is considered by many to be an outmoded medium, Barnard Frize (Paris, 1949) is one of the few painters. His paintings are the product of a methodical approach. `I opt for a way of working,' he maintains, `and the painting is simply a result of that.' In spite of his pragmatic approach, Frize's paintings are extremely diverse, and often a pleasure to the eye. Particularly striking are their luminous colors. These are, incidentally, chosen at random, because Frize displays no aesthetic preference, in this regard also. By adding resin to the paint he creates a smooth, silky texture. This lends an air of artificiality to the paintings, suggesting that they haven't been made by human hands.

Frize's works develop generally as a series, based on a certain technique or procedure. Consequently there is no stylistic coherence in the ordinary sense. And even when the paintings have been made in the same or in a similar way, they can appear to be quite different. For example, Avril (1991), an eleven-part work included in the exhibition and presenting a shifting panorama of colors, has more in common with Suite Segond SF N5 (1980), a small painting composed of brightly colored round shapes, than one might imagine at first glance. 

For the latter work, part of the De Pont Collection, Frize removed the dried-up surface layers from several cans of paint, and then applied these next to and on top of each other until the canvas was completely covered. Avril is also realized with dried-up paintskins, in this case originating from a rectangular wooden crate in which Frize had poured a variety of colors. The paints blended into each other while he waited eleven times until a layer of sufficient thickness had formed. The shading between the colors of the eleven parts therefore also has a cinematic quality. The images follow one another, with each image literally being an exposure of the situation at a given moment.

A number of paintings in the exhibition are covered with a thin veil of color traces that blend into each other. For these works Frize tied several brushes together. This enabled him to continually apply paint to the whole canvas because of the compounded width. And after each brush had been supplied with its own color, he spread the thin paint in one motion across the canvas. In other works he lets brushes, each dipped in a separate color, depart, for instance, from points left on the canvas. They lead to a line in the middle where the paint merges. The strokes then continue to the right-hand side of the canvas, while having taken on a different color in the meantime. 

Bernard Frize likes simplicity. In his view, this is the hallmark of a good work. For two decades, he has tried countless procedures, followed many methods which can produce a painting. The obvious logic of his works is, however, sometimes curiously or not totally sound, and the process of painting can never be entirely controlled. Yet these resulting anomalies and surprises are exactly what makes one want to view his paintings again and again.