Meticulous planning goes into Frize's stimulating paintings

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 September, 2013, 5:47pm

When it comes to creativity, French painter Bernard Frize leaves very little to chance.

The 59-year-old artist, who divides his time between a studio in Berlin and an apartment in Paris, is known for his highly analytical approach to his art, eschewing improvisation for what he describes as a "tightly controlled process".

"I like to stage everything in a painting," he says. "This is why it is so difficult to reduce the decisions because you have to try to avoid misunderstanding for the viewer.

"I like to be precise in my work. I spend a lot of time preparing to create something, but when I am working I like to do a painting in 10 minutes. It can take months to get to that stage.

"I don't make drawings or anything like that, I just come to a point when I know I can make it because I have reduced the number of decisions down to the absolute minimum needed. For me each painting is a problem that I like to resolve."

His latest body of work, entitled "On the Side Where There is No Handrail", is on show until the end of the month at Galerie Perrotin in Central.

The collection comprises seven dynamic canvasses in acrylic and resin, and one particularly captivating work in oil that is memorable for the artist's meticulous treatment of colour saturation and structure.

Measuring two metres by two metres, Polji was created by loading a 20cm wide brush with paint to create the unique graduation of precise colours that have become the hallmark of Frize's distinctive style.

"Everything on the painting is flat and looks like it is moving away from the viewer," Frize says. "It is actually very simple but you will find that you can't look at it all at one time. There is no core or focus, almost as if it is a detail of a much bigger image and so stretches beyond the canvas. The viewing experience becomes more like a journey into yourself."

He says the intense hyper-reality-inducing nature of his work is a deliberate effort to stimulate active participation by viewers: "I make paintings that are absolutely flat. The way they are addressed is asking you to enquire about them; to think about the reason why I have created them."

The current show, his second in Hong Kong, marks a departure from the artist's usual strict adherence to colour. "I rarely have grey or monotone paintings but in this exhibition I made a deliberate change because for me this exhibition is more about continuing a conversation from my previous works," he says.

For instance, Semploi, an intense, darkly kaleidoscopic creation, has a notably different feel to the others in the collection.

"It is more obvious here that the palette has been loaded onto the brush and then exhausted on the canvas," says Frize. "Almost all of the paint has the same tone so it is a metaphor for something that exhausts itself but becomes clear. A sort of clarity in chaos."

The highly complex and varied works in this exhibition nevertheless retain a sense of cohesion mainly because Frize has kept true to his signature chromatic style and a focus on paint as a tool.

"My work has not changed dramatically over the years so even the new pieces are a reflection of my art from 20 years ago," says Frize. "I grew up far from the art world and came to it quite late when I was about 17, but I love to work with paint. It intrigued me from the start and still intrigues me in the same way today.

"I particularly like that paint is a limited medium. There were thousands and thousands of painters before me and so you have to find something your own way. It is amazing."

Past works have included, for example, a series of paintings where the artist worked with dried skins of paint that formed at the top of an open can and another where he painted blindfolded following instructions from someone else.

"Inspiration doesn't come from one thing, it is usually many connected things that create a story or meaning," the painter explains. "I have to find my place. Travel is inspirational and things often catch my eye, but do not always influence me because I have no visual memory. If I see you tomorrow and don't remember you, please don't be offended."