Future Stratigraphy - opening 5 October 2016

Over the past few months I've been working on the Future Stratigraphy program and exhibition, for New Materialism in Contemporary Arts research cluster at Sydney College of the Arts. Future Stratigraphy explores ways of understanding, engaging and envisioning the materiality of landscape, and the repercussions of human impact on the Earth.

Kath Fries, Within and without, 2016, (detail view), beeswax, tree trunks
 and Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushrooms)
My work in the exhibition is a bioart installation with tree trunks, beeswax and growing oyster mushrooms. Within and Without 2016, reflects on attempts to restore forest biodiversity, questioning how we value and experience the enchanting complexities of such ecosystems. Echoing recent scientific research into Mycorestoration, a process in which Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushrooms) are used to rehabilitate abandoned logging roads, this work invites viewers into embodied engagements with these processes, to touch the logs, smell the beeswax and watch the fungi grow.

Future Stratigraphy exhibition focuses on art practices that metaphorically and actually engage with various layers of complex geological strata showing traces of human impact, referred to as the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems; causing mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluting the land and oceans, altering subterranean, aquatic and atmospheric layers. In a multi-disciplinary response to these discourses, Future Stratigraphy asks, ‘how will current human activities reveal themselves in the layers of the future?’ Questioning our understandings of deep and future time, engaging human relationships with matter and materiality, these art practices explore traces and scars of human presence on Earth, challenging how we work with, exploit, understand and attempt to rehabilitate our planet.

Artists: David Haines and Joyce Hinterding, Emma Robertson, John Roloff, Tracey Clement, Josh Wodak, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, Elaine Gan, Kath Fries, Sean O’Connell, Penny Dunstan, Bryden Williams, Dell Walker, Kenneth Mitchell and Madeleine Boyd.

Exhibition Opening: 5 October 6 - 8pm 

Symposium and artist talks: 18 October 2 - 6pm
Free registration

Exhibition: 6 October to 29 October 2016
Monday to Friday 11am - 5pm, Saturday 11am - 4pm
Sydney College of the Arts Galleries, Balmain Rd, Lilyfield NSW 2040 
New Materialism in Contemporary Art research cluster

Gaffa Ten Years Exhibition

Gaffa has hit its first decade, and I'm proud to say that I've been working with the Gaffa team since 2006, when it was fist founded by Aidan Li and Kelly Robson at 330 Crown Street in Surry Hills NSW. 

Gaffa Gallery at 330 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Opening night of our Four Steps Forward exhibition, 19 October 2006

I exhibited my first installation works at the Gaffa space on Crown Street, in a little group show titled Four Steps Forward 2006. Then in 2007, when Gaffa moved to 1/7 Randle Street in Surry Hills, and I was involved in several more exhibitions, Through the Eye of a Needle 2008; Lure Allure Illusion 2009; Queen and Country 2009; and Le Fil (the thread) 2009. In 2010 Gaffa moved to 281 Clarence Street Sydney, and I exhibited in the launch exhibition Fidelity 2010; then a solo exhibition Proliferation 2010; Art and About 2010; There 2010; and a performative collaboration in 2011; then I worked with Gaffa on the John Fries Memorial Prize 2012 and John Fries Memorial Prize 2013.

Gaffa has been very important for my practice in this formative decade, and I know it has been for many other emerging and early career artists. As well as being friendly, reliable and supportive; providing affordable exhibition space and being open to unusual experimental works; Gaffa has been a meeting ground and connection point for artists, so many friendships and professional relationships have grown from this place. 
Thank you Gaffa, I'm delighted to have my work included in your Ten Years Exhibition

Gaffa gallery Ten Years Exhibition invitation

GAFFA - CREATIVE PRECINCT: starting from humble beginnings as a small studio and gallery space in Surry Hills founded by Aidan Li and Kelly Robson, Gaffa is now a multi leveled Creative Precinct located in the heart of Sydney's CBD next to Town Hall Station. The ground floor houses long term tenants, Level 1 is a dedicated gallery level of four gallery spaces run by a curatorial team, Level 2 has jewellery workshops and studio spaces and Level 3 houses more studio spaces and a rooftop that has beautiful views of the Sydney CBD.
To date, Gaffa's jewellery workshop level is the largest of its kind in Australia and was the basis of Gaffa's beginnings. Now, in 2016 in our tenth year of operating Gaffa has grown into a larger entity that prides itself on providing a space to both established and emerging artists to foster their practices and exhibit their works. We remain committed to nurturing cross-platform collaboration, collectivity and cohesion within the contemporary arts community and to contributing to a wider converstaion in the Sydney art scene.
Gaffa is truly an individual, with no other one arts organisation acting quite the way that we do.

Kath Fries, Threshold, 2015, archival photographic print
on cotton rag paper, 87 x 61 cm, edition 1/3

Ten Years Exhibition
Opening: 6-9pm, Thursday 15 September 2016
Continues to 26 September 2016
Gaffa Galleries: 281 Clarence Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Artists: Alice Whish | Alida Cappelletta | Andrew Ensor | Audrey Pfister | Bec Hinwood | Caoife Power | Charlotte Richardson | Chris Li | Doug Schofield | Erin Timony | Faye Maramara | Francine Haywood | Francisca Rendic | Felix Gill | Hannah Toohey | Jack Poppert | Jason Phu | Jeff McCann | Joe Chen | Jenny Du | Jerry Zylberrberg | Judith Torzillo | Judy Kim | Jun Chen | Katya Petetskaya | Kath Fries | Lachie Hinton | Lux Eterna | Mark Gerada| Michelle Genders | Nadia Odlum | Natalie Raid | Pamela Horsnell | Rory Khurshed | Shan Shan Mok | Helen Mok | Shivanjani Lai | Stella Chen | Tim Andrew | Zoe Brand |

John Fries Award 2016

I am intrigued and inspired by the fourteen artists in the John Fries Award 2016 exhibition. Their works are provocative and political, reflective and humorous. They are courageous in speaking freely and pointedly through their work, despite being caught up in the midst of particularly challenging times as humanitarian, ecological, economical, socio and political tensions are building around the world.

Pursuing a career as an artist today may seem foolish, as national support and funding for the arts is being slashed and art schools are being closed. Those faint calls from the top to invest in creativity and innovation are drowned out by short-sighted profit margins. However, artists explore ways of communicating their diverse visions and diffracting voices, actively practising creative problem solving. They share with us a multiplicity of perspectives rather than capitulating to apathetic homogeneity. We must value our artists, now more than ever.

Over the past seven years the John Fries Award has played a small but significant role in supporting early career artists from Australia and New Zealand. This award was established in memory of my father, John Fries (1943-2009). Although he was not an artist, he is remembered as supporting the arts and valuing artists’ contributions to society. John was an accountant, engaging with the arts both from a position in the audience and contributing his corporate skills and financial knowledge as Viscopy’s Honorary Treasurer and Board member during the organisation’s formative years.

John understood how greatly society benefits from the skills, passions and unique viewpoints of artists. The arts has a resounding impact on how we comprehend ourselves historically, critique the present, and how we imagine we want to live together and understand each other in the future. Annual lists of the richest and most influential people are soon lost in the noise of time, unless those people support the arts and humanitarian causes. John was not at all famous or even immensely wealthy, but his pragmatic and benevolent support of his family, friends, colleagues and community, and his efforts to assist them to develop their skills, explore opportunities and pursue their dreams, is warmly remembered by many, and commemorated by this award. John possessed a true empathy with the financial challenges faced by artists, which he demonstrated through his work with Viscopy. His realistic and forward-thinking attitude still influences the organisation today and resonates in this annual award.

The fourteen artists in the John Fries Award 2016 are to be congratulated – their works are thoughtful, challenging and innovative. Although they are in the early stages of their careers, they demonstrate a serious commitment to developing their artistic practices, as well as engaging with their communities and giving back to society. These fourteen are just one small tip of an immense iceberg; an exciting diverse taste of what we can anticipate in the future, so long as we all continue to support the arts and persist in valuing artists’ adventurous endeavours.

Kath Fries
Artist and John Fries Award Committee Chair
- John Fries Award 2016 Catalogue Foreword -

John Fries Award 2016 invitation - johnfriesaward.com

John Fries Award 2016 
opening 6pm Thursday 18 August
continues until 1 October 2016

UNSW Galleries
cnr Oxford St and Greens Rd, Paddington NSW

SAVE Sydney College of the Arts

As a PhD candidate at Sydney College of the Arts, I was appalled to hear that the University of Sydney plans to close Sydney College of the Arts at the end of the year and send all its students to the University of NSW. I along with the other staff and students are outraged that there has not been any genuine consultation with us, we are devastated by this sudden announcement and are joining with SCA alumni and the arts community in protesting this move.

For over four decades Sydney College of the Arts has been recognised as a world-class institution vital to the education of Australia’s leading contemporary artists. With alumni including Ben Quilty, Jane Campion, Marc Newson, Bronwyn Bancroft, Lindy Lee, Fiona Foley, Shaun Gladwell, Fiona Lowry and Justene Williams, SCA is a cultural leader; shaping how we understand ourselves as Australians and our place in the world. The University of Sydney should celebrate being the custodian of this leading art school and recognise the important research and education that SCA contributes to the university.

Sydney as a global city must have a diversity of art schools as an essential ingredient for creating the optimum conditions that are part of building a vibrant creative Australia. It is not just my doctorate in jeopardy but the future of the arts and culture in our country.

You can help, please join Friends of SCA and sign the open letter online petition - friendsofsca.org

SOS SCA - Save Sydney College of the Arts, Friday 15 July 2016, photo by Kath Fries
 SOS SCA - Save Sydney College of the Arts, Friday 15 July 2016, photo by Kath Fries

Animaladies group exhibition, Interlude Gallery

ANIMALADIES explores how the crazy love of the animal advocate for non-human species can engender forms of courageous wisdom and persistence in the face of impossibilities and improbabilities. 

Kath Fries, Irradiate, 2016, beeswax, paper, log and sunlight, (detail view)

I will be exhibiting my Irradiate installation, which conjures our human fascination with bees and their honey. This work considers how honeybee pollination is essential for a third of global human food production and yet humans are causing a global honeybee crisis, with our industrialised agriculture, pesticides, land clearing and intensive artificial beekeeping practices. Irradiate references alternate practices of treating honeybee parasites with solar heat and light, as well as the the role that sunlight plays in honeybees' foraging flights and waggle dance communication. The beeswax used in Irradiate is sourced from an alternate bio-mimicry 'natural' beekeeper and reflects the beekeeper's sensory attunement through the tactility, aroma and visual layers of the interplay between sunlight, beeswax, paper and wood. Swirls of beeswax vary with translucent and opaque patches speaking of biodiversity and landscape aerial views from an imagined bee's eye view. The word Irradiate means to fill with light, as the title of this work it suggests hope that we can shift our understanding of human relationality from being superior and separate, to being entangled and enmeshed with non-humans and the complex ecosystems of this planet.

Animaladies exhibition invitation

ANIMALADIES: From crazy cat ladies to deranged animal advocates occupying a lunatic fringe, the spectre of the crazy label is never too far from the question of the animal. The cultural connections between madness, species, race and gender are plentiful, stereotypical and persistent, highlighting similar trajectories and patterns of marginalisation. Their intersection also requires careful contextual analysis and framing. This exhibition at Interlude Gallery and symposium at the University of Sydney explores the role of madness, reframed in terms of species, race and gender as ‘animaladies’. With an explicitly feminist animal studies focus, drawing on the gender, race and species specific histories of madness, including the cultivation of norms about reason and (human) civilisation, Animaladies inquires into the associations between femininity and madness as expressive of political and psychological discontent, as well as focusing on the impact of exploitative practices on animals themselves, sometimes driven mad by the conditions defined by human domination. The institutionalised forms of violence against animals are often held at arm’s length though structural conditions of invisibility by factory farming, industrialised farming practices, and marginalised workers within them. The ‘madness’ of our instrumentalised relationships with animals intersects with the ‘madness’ of taking animals seriously. But how is this madness distributed, how it is made purposeful, how it is disguised as ‘economic expediency’ and how it is made to work for social change or against it, how it is shaped as an insult, embraced as a zone of quarantine, or left as an undefined fear?

Kath Fries, Suffice, 2016, beeswax on paper, detail view
- postcard print included in the Animaladies limited edition postcard sets -


11 July - 22 July 2016

Opening drinks Monday 11 July from 5.30pm

Interlude Gallery: 11/131-145 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW

Open: Tuesday-Friday 10am-6pm. Saturday 11am-5pm

Artists: Lynn Mowson, Kath Fries, Jen Rae, Sumugan Sivanesan & Tessa Zettel, Yvette Watt, Yifang Lu, Vanessa Barbay, Tarsh Bates Susan Hauri-Downing, Andre Brodyk Chloe Pringle, Clare Nicholson, Tessa Laird, Penny Dunstan Rowena Grace, Michele Elliot, Pamela Pirovic, Madeleine Boyd with Prince the Pony, Gina Moore & Chris Barker, Teja Brooks and Pribac Debra Beers.
Curators: Madeleine Boyd, Melissa Boyde and Yvette Watt

Encountering Materiality

I'll be talking about my art practice and research at the Encountering Materiality conference in Geneva, 23-25 June 2016. With materiality as its focus and transdisciplinarity as its mode, the Encountering Materiality conference will address diverse ways of knowing, interpreting and engaging with matter. As contemporary societies meet philosophical and earthly limits, we are being confronted with the difficulty of articulating what materiality and matter are. Faced with anthropogenic alterations of numerous ecosystems and in light of developments in the sciences of ecology, geology and climatology, we have been forced to rethink our places and functions in the collective environment of planet Earth. Drawing on the fields of New Materialism and the Environmental Humanities, the conference is not restricted to them. Rather, it will address how sciences, arts and texts enact encounters with materiality as an entanglement of relationships, meanings, matter and movement. 
Encountering Materiality: Science, Art, Language, 23-25 June 2016, Batiment des Philosophes (Philosophers’ Building), 22 Boulevard des Philosophes, 1205 Genève, Switzerland. encounteringmateriality.org
My conference presentation is titled A beeswax sensorium, and reflects on sensory encounters with beeswax in my art practice, exploring embodied engagements in experiential, tangible and bio-mimicry processes. The aromatic, tactile and visual qualities of beeswax present in the making and viewing of these artworks, evokes an engagement with the material’s origins, history, present and future. Such embodied synesthetic experiences connects to the hive, the bees’ honeycomb home and the super-organism of the colony, as a nurturing life force for the bees and their vital pollination role in complex ecosystems, in which both insects and humans are inextricably entangled.
Encountering Materiality conference program

Kath Fries, Visiting honeybee, BigCi studio Bilpin, NSW Australia, 2015 

Out of Time - accompanying essay

Something really does happen to people who go north—they become at least aware of the creative opportunity which the physical fact of the country represents and come to measure their own work and life against that rather staggering creative possibility: they become, in effect, philosophers.[1]

The renowned Canadian pianist Glenn Gould had a lifelong fascination with the idea of North. The sheer physical profundity of the northern land was for Gould a unique opportunity to observe the concept of solitude. This is not exclusive or prerogative to those who go north, but it does appear that this environment leaves its marks upon those who make the journey. There is consciousness that arises from an engagement with these northern landscapes, a heightened phenomenological spatial awareness of one’s own body in space—often inducing an enhanced perception of nature, with all its transcendent otherness. Kant famously ruled that ‘it is the disposition of soul evoked by a particular representation engaging the attention of the reflective judgement, and not the Object, that is called sublime’. There is a long held belief amongst northerners that life-wisdom is not found in social interaction or cultural centres, but rather in solitary confrontation with nature at its most extreme. It is amongst nature that one must seek true self.

The Nordic countries are as geographically remote and topographically as different as can be to Australia.  There is a Lutheran sensibility that lives in these northern lands, where historically nature dictates the terms of human existence and creates a dependence on the surrounding environment.  This connection to place and the landscape is an important marker of a Nordic identity. Modern Nordic societies might be changing, but nature still has a constant presence in their various national psyches. Nature is for these people what cultural historian Nina Witoszek calls a ‘perpetuum mobile’—a semiotic centre around which everything moves. 

We speak of the four seasons, yet in the north one tends to speak of only two, summer and winter, the rest is morphological/transitional in-between time. There is a sense of deep mourning as autumn descends, a prelude to what for some seems like a long, bleak and foreboding time ahead, filled with melancholy and isolation. Yet, for many, this dark time is a period for self-reflection and askesis. Askesis is an embedded belief that the light must be balanced with the dark to truly understand one self.
This darkened temporal - Out of Time - space frequently destabilizes visual perception, blurring the lines between the real and the imagined. As darkness descends on the land, new shapes appear in the shadows. Winter takes hold. A diffused whiteness that blends one thing into another – the sky becomes part of the ocean and it all becomes part of the weather. This distorted, yet hyper-real state of being, provokes a subconscious connection to nature and the landscape around. The great forests with the deep lakes, windswept rugged coastlines, and tall mountains filled with waterfalls and rivers, are traditional places, often depicted in the rural Nordic folk culture, believed to be home to subterranean supernatural forces. In Norwegian Folktales, Pat Shaw recounts Erik Werenskiold’s description of his childhood home:

One sat in the darkness by the oven door … from the time of the tallow candle and the rush light … in the never-ending, lonely winter evenings, where folk still saw trolls and captured the sea-serpent, and swore that it was true. 

But with spring comes the longed for release from the darkness, and as winter slowly dissolves, the mood lifts and all the senses are filled with the prospect of endless summer days. The Swedish writer August Strindberg once declared that summer is the season when ‘in all the countries in the North, the earth is a bridge and the ground is full of gladness’. This light-dark dichotomy, with all its atmospheric conditions generates an environment that provokes us to ask: how do you feel the weather, the landscape or a place?
Ellen Dahl, April 2016

Ellen Dahl grew up in Hammerfest in Norway, and moved to Australia in 1995. Dahl is an artist, photographer and writer, working with and around the landscape, exploring junctures of identity with a physical, polit­ical and psychological sense of place. ellendahlphotographer.com

[1] ‘The Idea of North: An Introduction’ The Glen Gould Reader

Out of Time, May 2016, AirSpace Projects, gallery view of work by Kath Fries and Michelle Heldon  

Out of Time
6 - 21 May 2016
Michelle Heldon, Taryn Raffan and Kath Fries
Gallery one, AirSpace Projects
10 Junction St, Marrickville NSW

During their residencies in Greenland, Iceland and Finland, the artists were drawn to the pull of the magical, inner power of the landscapes and story-telling traditions of the far north. The terrains of these Nordic countries continue to resound with narratives, mysterious secrets and silences, frozen and forested gifts and perils. Michelle Heldon, Taryn Raffan and Kath Fries works in Out of Time conjure an age-old instinct to wander, to experience seasons and environments, and to relate surreal findings back to the familiar. These poetic visual stories are transported, blended, reconstructed and adapted into contemporary understandings of existence and open-ended imaginations.

Out of Time, May 2016, AirSpace Projects, gallery view of work by Taryn Raffan and Kath Fries

Out of time - exhibition invitation

Out of time features work by Michelle Heldon, Taryn Raffan and Kath Fries, from their recent residencies in Greenland, Iceland and Finland. The terrains of these Nordic countries continue to resound with narratives, mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils of frozen and forested landscapes, which are also the background to and the source of most European fairytales. Out of time traces individual personal engagements with specific locations, featuring works that range from drawings and sculptures to videos, photographs and installations. Each artist’s practice resonates with storytelling traditions, exploring complex interconnections rather than didactic linear descriptions. Together they convey felt experiences and responses to the pull of the magical, inner power of the landscapes, icebergs, forests, lava fields and cultures of the far north.

Out of time reaffirms the fairytale location of timeless – set in a ‘once upon a time’ epoch, not fixed historically but rather reinterpreted constantly. The term fairytale invites an engagement with mythical realms or parallel universes; and as it opens up collective, shared and personal imaginative spaces, so that a new folklore emerges, full of the potential for encountering the magical and believing in the unknown and unexplainable. Now, on the other side of the world, the question arises – how do these experiences, artworks and narratives translate back home in Australia? Such frozen fairytales may initially seem out of place, as well as out of time, here. Yet in between these vast, isolated landscapes lies a common denominator for these artists, an innate human desire to connect to land, spirit and folklore. Bridging an age-old instinct to wander; to experience seasons and environments; and to relate their surreal findings back to the familiar, their stories are transported, blended, reconstructed and adapted into contemporary understandings of existence and open-ended imaginations.

Michelle Heldon’s videos of melting snowballs and handmade micro-icebergs conjure an embodied engagement with time and narrative traditions. In Greenland she investigated water as a changing modality to express transition, conveying echoes of Inuit Shamanic beliefs in spirits within nature and hints at a secret language for transition into other realms. michelleheldon.com
Taryn Raffan’s drawings of spirit faces similarly consider the transformations, both perceived and experienced, during her residency in Iceland. Her sculptural series also reflect how components of the self evolve when affected by the landscape; and how one can feel present within vastness yet also connected to indistinct imaginations, paralleling how fairytales and folklore deconstruct this process into a character format. tarynraffan.com
Kath Fries’ installations and photographs explore renditions of the Finish wild forest within the sheltered, protected internal spaces of buildings. These works consider the permeability of our constructed boundaries as physical walls become enchanted when fiction merges with reality. kathfries.com

Out of time
6-21 May 2016
AirSpace Projects
10 Junction St Marrickville NSW 2044
Open: Thurs-Fri 11am-6pm, Sat 11am-5pm

Tracing Materiality - installations and discussion

Kath Fries, Irradiate, 2016, beeswax, paper, log, window and daylight

Kath Fries, Irradiate, 2016, beeswax, paper, log, window and daylight

Kath Fries, Irradiate, 2016, beeswax, paper, log, window and daylight

Kath Fries, Irradiate, 2016, and Dalliance, 2016

Kath Fries, Dalliance, 2016, beeswax, string, charcoal, paper and ceiling bolts

Kath Fries, Dalliance, 2016, beeswax, string, charcoal, paper and ceiling bolts (detail view)

Kath Fries, Dalliance, 2016, beeswax, string, charcoal, paper and ceiling bolts, 
with dog paw prints (detail view)

Kath Fries, Suffuse, 2016, beeswax, charcoal, paper and light-boxes

Kath Fries, Suffuse, 2016, beeswax, charcoal, paper and light-boxes

Kath Fries, Suffuse, 2016, beeswax, charcoal, paper and light-boxes

Kath Fries, Suffuse, 2016, beeswax, charcoal, paper and light-boxes, (detail view)

Tracing Materiality is now in its final week, finishing up next Sunday 20 March with a discussion about Expanded drawing practices at 2pm, chaired by Megan Robson, (Assistant Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia) with artists Gillian Lavery, Renuka Fernando, and myself. Followed by finissage drinks at 3pm and Gillian Lavery will begin the erasure of her wall drawing. It's been an interesting experience so far and exciting to see the works grow, evolve and change during the course of the exhibition. Renuka has been working with colourful mixed media on long two long rolls of canvas and paper, Gillian has been continuing with her spiral pencil drawings on a large piece of silk and her extended circular arm span on the wall, and I've been working with loose ephemeral charcoal powder to trace movements in the space and textures in my beeswax paper installations. I hope you can join us for these closing events at Chrissie Cotter Gallery, Pidcock St, Camperdown NSW.

'Tracing Materiality' is a project and exhibition by Sydney based artists Gillian Lavery, Renuka Fernando and Kath Fries, exploring expanded drawing practices that move beyond drawing as representation to focus on materiality and mark making. The artists’ process-based approaches are open-ended, improvisational and unfolding within the gallery over the exhibition’s duration. This allows the inner workings and fluid nature of art practice to be visible to the audience. 'Tracing Materiality' emphasises the creative process above the end result by engaging meditative but not premeditated forms, transforming the gallery into an active environment where thinking, making and play are accessible to visitors. Working throughout the gallery space, utilizing the various surfaces of the walls, floors, windows and corners, the artists’ work will develop and evolve resulting in a survey of different mark making approaches of expanded drawing and process-based practices. Project blog - tracingmateriality.blogspot.com.au