Confines, The Lock-Up, 29 April to 15 May 2011

Confines, a series of site-sensitive installations by Kath Fries
29 April to 15 May 2011
The Lock-Up, 90 Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW 2300
Open: Wednesday to Sunday 10am – 4pm

Confines is a series of site-sensitive installations by Kath Fries, the current artist-in-residence at The Lock-Up, Newcastle. In these works Fries has used tactile everyday materials to explore and describe the perimeters and penetrations of each space, consciously leaving room for the viewer’s own personal associations, interpretations and narratives to be developed. Whispers of ghost stories permeate these spaces, manifesting in Fries’ installations as a sense of tension, balancing on an edge between the immediate present and unfurling possibilities of the unseen.

Confines: the boundaries, limits, or scope that restricts somebody or something
Confine: to keep within certain limits or boundaries, to keep somebody or something from leaving an enclosed or limited space 

“My installation practice begins with the premise of responding to the location of each work in a site-sensitive manner. But, in a building as heavily laden with a sense of historical presence as The Lock-Up, it has been all the more challenging to respond to the dynamics of these spaces and enhance their sensibilities without sidetracking or detracting from what they are. Working on an intuitive level and focusing on my gut reaction to being in each of the spaces (forcing myself to remain there for hours at a time whilst making the works), I explored the physical boundaries of the cells particularly the permeation points. Not just the doors for human access, but more particularly how light, air and sound came into, out-of and move around each of the spaces. Tactile everyday materials are used in Confines to track and enhance these potential paths of movement. During the process of developing these works the notion of art as escapism became particularly apparent and the possibility of escaping in any form was very appealing.” (Kath Fries, April 2011)

Locations of Kath Fries' Confines installations in The Lock-Up


Confine i, 2008 - 2011
Mirrors, DVD and audio loop, projector, found wire and tangled vine
(Cell F: Women’s Cell)
A small barred window allows a little light in and the expansive imagination out – it becomes the passageway for dreams and longing, a focal point within the cell to access the world outside. On the cell floor, the window grid is repeated in an arrangement of mirrors, onto which is projected video footage of a leaf filament caught in a spider’s web. This skeletal silhouette slowly flutters in the wind, caught in limbo between heaven and earth but unable to connect with either.

Kath Fries, Confine i, 2008 – 2011


Confine ii, 2011
Synthetic hair extensions, power cord and light bulb
(Cell G: Women’s Cell)
The deranged pulling and twisting of hair forms a disturbing image of incarceration and disconnection from the world. Here the use of an apparently abject bodily material conjures strong visceral responses as well as associations with narratives and histories where hair is a focal point, from the practice of shaving prisoners’ heads to the Rapunzel fairytale.
Kath Fries, Confine ii, 2011


Confine iii, 2010-2011
Feathers, foam furniture stuffing and rope
(Cell B: Men’s Cell)
Just as humans may pull out their hair under intense stress, birds have similarly been observed plucking out their own feathers in states of extreme anxiety. Here a flotsam of feathers sits incongruously against the hard concrete cell. More feathers seemingly creep along a length of rope leading a way out of the space via an obscure corner drain and a high small window. Amongst the graffiti carved into the walls is the word FLY, surrounded by feathers it hints at fantasies of an Icarus* style escape. Outside the pigeons continue to coo insistently.

* In ancient Greek mythology Icarus and his father famously attempted to escape imprisonment by creating wings from feathers and wax to fly over the walls of the Cretan Labyrinth and across the sea beyond.

Kath Fries, Confine iii,  2010-2011
Kath Fries, Confine iii, 2010-2011
Kath Fries, Confine iii, 2010-2011


Confine iv, 2011
Nylon netting and padded walls
(Cell C: Padded Cell)
One edge of netting is drawn taut across the diagonal of the cell before cascading to the doorway floor. Purporting to be a safety net, but just like the padded cell, this grid of thread is fallible, fragile and torn. The human psyche remains largely unpredictable and unknown, there is still no failsafe way to secure a person’s life or sanity or freedom.
Kath Fries, Confine iv, 2011
Kath Fries, Confine iv, 2011


Confine v, 2011
Hessian rope and shadows
(Cell E: Men’s Cell)
Shadowy grids score the floor with light and dark, echoing the cell’s barred windows. Hessian ropes hang suspended, reminiscent of hammocks swinging within a sailing ship’s wooden hull and colonial transportation.
Kath Fries, Confine v, 2011
Kath Fries, Confine v, 2011
Kath Fries, Confine v, 2011


Confine vi, 2009 – 2011
Hand braided recycled fabric and concrete bathtub
(Exercise Yard)
The yard was constructed and concealed for male inmates’ exercise and ablutions, their view of the sky was restricted as was the post office worker’s view of the prisoners. Constructed by hand from torn rags, this work traces the flow of water into and out of one corner of the yard, pointing to the drains and hitherto unseen open expanse of sky above.

Kath Fries, Confine vi, 2009-2011
Kath Fries, Confine vi, 2009-2011

Artist-in-residence at The Lock-Up, Newcastle

I'm about to start a three week residency at The Lock-Up in Newcastle. My installations in the cells will be opening in conjunction with the exhibition at the John Paynter Gallery on Friday 29th April.

“My site-sensitive installations in The Lock-Up will explore the duality of fibers, ropes and netting to link, tie and connect as well as to restrain and contain. The same length of rope has the potential to be both a lifesaver and a hangman’s noose. Whispers of ghost stories will permeate these works, manifesting in a sense of tension, balancing on edge between the immediate present and unfurling possibilities of the unseen.”

The Lock-Up was the Newcastle Police Station from 1861 until its closure in 1982. Listed in the NSW Heritage Register, the Lock-Up is believed to be the only example in NSW that includes the work of three of the State’s important early architects; Alexander Dawson, Mortimer Lewis Jnr. and Walter Vernon. Constructed in Sydney sandstone, the building is one of a row of four significant buildings that reflect the prosperity of early Newcastle. The Lock-Up now functions as a cultural centre housing a contemporary art gallery and artist residency as well as the heritage listed prison cells.

John Fries Memorial Prize 2011 - current call for guest curator and call for entries

The John Fries Memorial Prize is an emerging artist non-aquisitive award of $10,000. This annual prize is open to all visual artists resident in Australia and New Zealand who are not enrolled students and whose work is not represented in the collection of a regional, state, territory or national public art gallery. Artists of all ages and disciplines, whether members of Viscopy or not, are eligible to enter.
The prize has been donated by the Fries family in memory of former Viscopy director and honorary treasurer, John Fries, who made a remarkable contribution to the life and success of Viscopy.

Guest Emerging Curator EOI close 21 April 2011
This year Viscopy is looking to commission a guest emerging curator to assist with the John Fries Memorial Prize 2011. 

Entries for the John Fries Memorial Prize close 6 June 2011
The winner will be announced at the opening of the exhibition of the finalists’ work in August. 

Last year Hannah Bertram won the inaugural John Fries Memorial Prize and Melanie Irwin was awarded a second prize. Their work is currently being exhibited in Trace Elements at Viscopy's Gallery - Blackfriars off Boardway until 27 May 2011 

For more information please contact Viscopy's Gallery Co-ordinator Tegan Nichols:
t: (02) 9310 2018

Gunyah artist-in-residence program

The new Gunyah artist-in-residence program (North Arm Cove, Port Stephens NSW) is now open for applications.

Providing low cost self-contained accommodation for self-directed artist residencies Gunyah artist-in-residence program is open to applications from visual artists, writers, composers, performance artists, curators, new media and arts administrators. Gunyah artist-in-residence program runs from February to November and is suitable for solo, collaborative or group project. Artists are welcome to bring their families.

For more information see or email