PIA FRIES | la partie élévatrice
Pia Fries was born in Beromünster Switzerland in 1955. In the 80s she moved to what was then West Germany and registered at Düsseldorf Art Academy where she became a pupil of Gerhard Richter. Richter's expressive, polychrome abstract painting was to greatly influence Pia Fries' work which would gradually come to feature her characteristic paint pile-ups, collages and other additions which widen the range of mixed media possibilities and are reminiscent of living forms and textures that lend a three-dimensional character to great abstract painting.
One of the most notable features of Pia Fries' work is precisely the thickness of the pigment, which she applies with exuberance while at the same time preserving a smooth surface on which Baroque forms stand out in alto relievo. Though they may not seem so at first glance, the artist's works are always different, not only in terms of composition and usage of colour, but also in the way the painting itself is used as a material. Step by step, Fries, with measured deliberation, crafts the organization of her paintings, walking through the painting process, adding and subtracting, deftly avoiding any hint of illustration. And, though her work balances between a type of art that is intuitive and another that is highly planned, the main theme she conveys is that of "painting" which represents nothing more than her "feeling as an artist."!
They are compositions without a real vanishing point where the forms sinuously disseminate throughout the candid surface of the canvass or the wood, and where they (and allow me to alliterate) unroll, uncurl, unstraighten, unfurl, unveil and unwrap themselves like living organisms  that move and metamorphose or like the strains of jazz that are syncopated and improvised in a seemingly disordered narrative-free musicality that is impossible to hum. It is this very dynamism, and the forms she distributes without obeying any particular hierarchy, the material richness displayed by the dense layers of paint in conjunction with collages and impressions in lively applications of layering that allow us to give Pia Fries' works such different interpretations and which provoke such different perceptions when they are being seen at a close distance or, on the contrary, from farther away. Our first gaze inevitably impels us to grasp the plasticity of the image as a whole, as our eyes sweep over the entire surface of the work. Only after, when we look more closely, do we make out the finer details of the composition. More often than not, what motivates us to examine it again is the duality that was sparked by either our first close or more distant observation of the work: the desire to perceive the painting both as a whole and as a treasure trove of details!
Even though the distribution of the forms on the surface of the canvass do not follow any precise hierarchy, and despite the disorienting tension that is produced, it is clear that the artist has sought balance in the visual arrangement of her compositions when it comes to form and colour.
Pia Fries always uses a vibrant palette that harmoniously combines with the colours which assume the leading role in her peculiar brand of "painted paintings." The background usually remains white but should never be construed as a mere lifeless backdrop on which one is carrying out the act of painting. The limpid, flat background acts as a counterpoint to the painted motifs, enlivening the composition and, in conjunction with the oil in the pigments, enhances the brilliance of the colour making the forms in the painting look as if they were suspended in rivulets and swirling whirlpools on the surface of the work.
The peculiarity of the background is taken as yet another element of the composition which, in symbiosis with the painting and the profusion of material placed on it (thick layers of erupting paint interspersed with impressions of silk screened photographic images, collages of fabric reminiscent of the work of Sigmar Polke or strips of crepe paper) go into creating paintings that are the result of a series of layers that create captivating interplays of illusion. Indeed, the works seem almost trompe l'oeil as they stand out from the white of the background that attaches the paintings to the equally white walls of the exhibition room, thus showcasing the work within the exhibition space.
The zigzags and horizontal and vertical lines left by the artist's brushes, spatulas and other tools, intensify the pulsating nature of these works which are fraught with life, form and colour. They are works that invite us to look introspectively and dialogue with ourselves; paintings that lead us to an understanding that is both intensely personal and subjective. In each form and thick swath of paint, we seem to glimpse hints of images from the real world that differ according to the imagination of each viewer. These images provoke sensations and affect us physically by awakening all of our senses, reminding us of bygone scents and flavours, arresting our eye, and sparking the desire to touch.
The works of Pia Fries have recently been exhibited at the Kunstmuseum Luzern, the Bernard Jacobson Gallery in London, and the prestigious Swiss gallery Mai 36. In 2007 the Kunstmuseum Winterthur held an important retrospective of the artist's work entitled Pia Fries: Painting 1991-2006, an overview of Fries artistic output over the last 15 years. Fries' paintings can also be found in distinguished public and private collections in Switzerland and other countries. Some of the institutions displaying her work are the Museu Kunsthaus in Zurich, the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and the Neues Museum in Nuremberg, to name just a few.
 "I have no motif. Just motivations." "I believe that motivation is the true nature of art and that motif is an outmoded idea." Gerhard Richter in The Daily Practice of Painting, 1960-1993, ed. Hans-Ulrich Obrist. Translation: David Britt. Londres 1995; pg. 112 and pg.119.
 Here it is worth mentioning, for example, the series of works for the "Loschaug"project, exhibited at the CRG Gallery NY in 2007, which was inspired by a 17th century book on insects and by the naturalist and scientific researcher Maria Sibylla Merian. The publication is reproduced in these works.
 Pia Fries has also made use of photographs of old paintings printed on wood which serve as a springboard for highly original, new works.