Skid series, 2009, Kath Fries, Digital colour photographs


Parched, 2009, Kath Fries, digital colour photographs.

Passing through

Passing through, 2009, charcoal, cuts and embroidery thread on canvas, three panels

Ariadne’s Thread - memory, interconnection and the poetic in contemporary art

Kath Fries ~ Master of Visual Arts Thesis ~
University of Sydney, Sydney College of the Arts 2008.
Ariadne’s Thread - memory, interconnection and the poetic in contemporary art

Abstract: This Dissertation explores the metaphor of Ariadne’s thread in terms of interconnection, when an element from the everyday is used as a locus linking broader concepts of time and space. Such experiences and associations are reflected in the work of Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Doris Salcedo, Lucio Fontana, Richard Tuttle, Mona Hatoum, Simone Mangos, Anya Gallaccio and Yoshihiro Suda. In relation to my own work, the metaphor of interconnecting thread allows a sense of freedom and journey of discovery. My studio and related research are closely aligned in developing my understanding of interconnection, through my studio process of making and continuing experiences of looking at and interpreting others artists’ work.

Read online at or click on these links:

The John Fries Memorial Art Prize

On Tuesday 10th November 2009, Blackfriars off Broadway, Viscopy’s new Sydney exhibition space for artists was launched by Virginia Judge MP. One of the highlights of the evening was the Minister’s announcement of a new annual prize for artists. The John Fries Memorial Prize will award the winning artist a $10,000 cash prize plus a solo exhibition at Blackfriars off Broadway. Virginia Judge said that she was “delighted” to announce the new opportunity for artists to receive such a career boost: “This annual prize will be open to all artists in Australia who have not yet secured recognition through a commercial gallery. Artists of all ages and disciplines, whether members of Viscopy or not, will be eligible to enter” said the Minister.

(John Fries, 1943 - 2009)

The prize remembers John Fries, who died suddenly following an accident earlier this year. John served on the Viscopy board of directors for 5 years and made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of the organisation. The cash prize has been committed by the Fries family. Speaking on behalf of the family John’s daughter Kath Fries, herself an artist, said :

“My father was always supportive of my work and through his work with Viscopy he really understood the financial challenges that face artists. I think he would be very proud of this award and the opportunity it presents for the winners to significantly advance their careers.”

(Michael Keighery Viscopy Chairman, Kath Fries, Vivienne Fries & Vanessa Fries)

Entries will open in April next year and the winner will be announced at an exhibition of finalists’ work in October 2010. The John Fries Memorial Prize will be open to all artists in Australia and New Zealand who have been practicing professionally for at least two years but have not yet secured recognition through a commercial gallery. Artists of all ages and disciplines, whether members of Viscopy or not, will be entitled to enter.

Viscopy is a not for profit membership rights management organisation representing over 7,000 artists and their beneficiaries, approximately 43% of the total population of artists in Australia and New Zealand. Indigenous artists account for almost half of these. Viscopy also represents some 40,000 international artists in the Australasian territory.


Recoiling is a new site-sensitive installation, featuring hand-braided rope bound around a tree trunk. The spiraling textiles lead the viewers' gaze up and away into branches and leaves, reaching towards the sky. These weighty tactile materials suggest medieval fairy-tale connotations within its menacing snake-like choking coils.

Recoiling is situated at Stonehurst Cedar Creek Cellar Door as part of
Sculpture in the Vineyards 2009, on the Wollombi Wine Trail in the Hunter Valley NSW.

Drawing with thread i

Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency

Drawing with thread ii

Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency

Drawing with thread iii

Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency

Drawing with thread iv

Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency


Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency


Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency

Interiority i

Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency

Interiority ii

Works created during my Laughing Waters artist residency


Work created during my Laughing Waters Artist Residency


Works created during my Laughing Waters artist residency

Fallen branch installation

Work created during my Laughing Waters artist residency.

... last summer's bushfires were never far from our thoughts ...

This work centered on a fallen branch, wrapped in foil with a mirror set behind it.

Chasing Rainbows

Site-sensitive works from my Laughing Waters artist residency.

Chasing Rainbows used mirrors, water and sunlight to create temporary rainbow reflections in the shadowy rocks that surround the landscaped ponds of the Birrarung bushland gardens.

Laughing Waters artist-in-residence

You are invited to join Kate Moore and Kath Fries,
current Laughing Waters artists-in-residence
for an open studio evening and informal presentation of new works exploring their shared interests in time, reflection and place.

Saturday 17th October 5.30-7.30pm
Birrarung, Laughing Waters, Eltham, Victoria


Laughing Waters Artist Residency Program is run by Nillumbik Council, in partnership with Parks Victoria. Birrarung is a heritage mudbrick dwelling, built using organic and recycled materials. It has housed a number of artists over the years.

23rd September – 23rd October 2009

Artist-in-resident with Kate Moore at Birrarung, Laughing Waters

Artworks of quiet observation - Kath Fries

One morning we were bush walking and noticed the ground cover of yellow flowers had closed up. At first we thought they had died off, but then realised that they were waiting for the sun to rise higher in the sky before opening their petals to the new day. Crouching down close to them we waited and gradually began to develop a new sense of patience. We peered intently at the small flora, which was balancing on the precipice between slumber and moment of awakening.

Needless to say the flowers’ movements were very gradual, almost to the point of being invisible. My only prior recollection of watching flowers bloom, is from nature documentaries - always presented in fast motion. The experience identified a very different sense of time to our usual days spent in the city rat-race.

During our month long residency at Birrarung, Laughing Waters, Kate and I spent significant periods of time being contentedly quiet and still, listening and watching the natural sounds and sights of the local flora and fauna of the surrounding bush.

I was drawn to reusing two materials familiar in my art practice, embroidery threads and mirrors, in notably site-sensitive manner. Each work aimed to focus on a particular moment of time and sense of light. My thread installations seemed to naturally grow to echo the complex structure of the spider webs found in the buildings and outside in the rocks and plants. The tension, dangling and tying of the threads formed a strong sense of interdependency suggesting metaphors of human relations going far beyond my initial concept of three-dimensional drawing in space.

Birrarung’s landscaped ponds threatened to overflow during heavy continuous rain, but between these downfalls the surface of the water would lie still and flat creating perfect reflections of the surrounding trees, rocks and sky. The possibilities of simple reflections have become a constant in my artwork, lying square glass mirrors flat on the ground facing upwards to engage the viewer in looking down to see a section of the roof or window above. Positioned outside, like holes in the ground that somehow look up into the sky, the mirrors inverted the viewer’s usual vertical sense of gravitational reality to create a more cyclic unity between the elements of ground, growth and air. In other installations the mirrors were angled so their duplicitous reflections were lost in the bushland’s surrounding complexity. The hard flat physicality of the unnatural mirrors became illusive and camouflaged as their double images vanished amongst the setting’s abundant detail.

Ariadne’s Thread installation

Kath Fries, Ariadne's thread, 2009

My installation for Le fil (the thread), group exhibition at Gaffa Gallery, Surry Hills, was created out of numerous meters of recycled fabric woven into a rope, which then leads the viewer around the nocks and crannies of the gallery space. Titled Ariadne’s Thread the work refers to the ancient Greek myth of the Cretan Labyrinth navigated using a spool of thread. 

Kath Fries, Ariadne's thread, 2009

I would like to thank Jodi Altona, Kate Clive, Chrissie Ianssen, Eleanor James, Anneke Jaspers, Olivia Kloosterman, Nina Marisol Prado, Anton Pulvirenti, Elsa Pulvirenti, Megan Robson and Elise Routledge for their weaving and braiding assistance with this project.
All the artists who responded enthusiastically to my concept and generously contributed  their works to this exhibition: Hannah Bertram, Kath Fries, Michelle Heldon, Chrissie Ianssen, Jade Pegler, Melinda Young, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Michele Morcos, Linden Braye, Megan Yeo, Shannon Johnson and Sophia Egarchos. And Jane Llewellyn for writing the accompanying exhibition text.

Le Fil (the thread) - exhibition text

At first glance one might assume that the artists in the exhibition, Le Fil (the thread), are exploring the techniques of craft. However, they are using traditional craft techniques and combining them with contemporary media like video, sound and installation aesthetics, sparking the age old debate about where, and if, craft ends and art begins. By using traditional techniques the artists give their works the authenticity of being hand made – something which is becoming increasingly valued in our society – and delivery through contemporary media makes the works and their meanings more accessible.

Blurring the boundaries between craft and art is paramount for the twelve artists in this exhibition: Hannah Bertram, Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Michelle Heldon, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos, Jade Pegler, Megan Yeo and Melinda Young. These artists work across a diverse range of media, dispelling the idea that craft and art exist as separate genres.

For a few of these artists (Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos and Megan Yeo) it isn’t the first time they have come together to explore the ideas of reinterpretation of craft and the reassembling of found objects. In 2008 they were part of the group exhibition through the eye of the needle in which (as Megan Robson says in her exhibition essay) the artists similarly aimed to “...investigate the methods, ideology and forms associated with mass manufactured textile and domestic goods. Utilising the tools, techniques and structure associated with textile and domestic objects...”

In Le Fil (the thread) several artists directly reference traditional craft practices, such as Shannon Johnson who has used embroidery to recreate a giant 5-cent piece and Michele Morcos who creates an artistic meditation in her works, the needle and thread reflecting how “life can be broken down to the simplest of acts”. Sophia Egarchos’s focus is on sewing techniques such as pleating and shirring. When applied to her paintings (she shirrs the canvas), Egarchos transforms flat two dimensional works into tactile three dimensional pieces. Chrissie Ianssen on the other hand composes her paintings using elements of traditional Norwegian knitting patterns. She uses them to striking effect, some may say harking back to a past that is no longer relevant in contemporary Norway. Megan Yeo uses the traditional British craft of embroidery as a quaint and pleasant fa├žade to mask the internal terrorist threat that lurks under the surface of modern Britain.

While the exhibition title, Le Fil (the thread), might suggest that artworks in the exhibition hang together precariously – that the connection is flimsy and delicate – it is used as a metaphor to reflect the fragility of the connections we create in our society which can break or fade away at any moment. As our world continues to advance at a lightning pace, and communication becomes key we question how strong these bonds actually are.

Much more than just a thread holds together the work of these artists, as they deconstruct and rebuild ancient and modern materials and processes, exploring the thread both in its simplest form and the more complicated web it weaves. In Kath Fries’ artwork she creates a literal web using woven strips of recycled fabric forming a rope which is woven through the nooks and crannies of the gallery. Based on an ancient Greek myth, Fries takes us on a journey through the labyrinth which reflects the web of life.

Whether it is the video work of Iranian born Sahar Hosseinabadi, Hannah Bertram’s site-specific installation, or even the wearable jewellery pieces by Melinda Young, these artists are connected by a conceptual thread that runs through the works addressing ideas on how we value fabrics.

This concept is further explored through the notion that we are constantly consuming and discarding large quantities of textiles. It’s not surprising then that the artists explore the renewal and recycling of found objects. These objects are embedded with history which when brought to the new work adds immense value. The cycle of discard followed by renewal highlights the object’s continual value and links the past to the present.

Jade Pegler plays with this notion, creating a future history with her “curiosities” crafted from everyday materials. Linden Braye takes materials with little value from urban or natural environments and creates constructions which reference "the natural world through the built one". Michelle Heldon is also inspired by nature and works with found objects focusing on how the different materials feel and react with each other. The tactility of the surfaces are of particular interest as Heldon explores the relationship between form, colour, texture and shape.

Le Fil (the thread) presents a selection of artworks that are pushing the boundaries between art and craft, a debate which is intrinsically based on value. Is craft a skill and is art an inborn talent? As we are entering a technologically advanced world and visual artists are working across several different types of medium, quite often in the one artwork, such categorisations no longer seem valid.

Jane Llewellyn
Jane Llewellyn is a free-lance arts writer and arts consultant, currently based in Sydney, she has previously worked as the sub-editor for Australian Art Collector Magazine

Le Fil (the thread): 31 July - 7 August 2009
Artists: Hannah Bertram, Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Michelle Heldon, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos, Jade Pegler, Megan Yeo and Melinda Young.
Gaffa Gallery: 1/7 Randle St, Surry Hills NSW 2010