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