Art out there - Fiona McIntosh's review of 'Scorch'

Fiona McIntosh, Art out there - blog review, 14 March 2012

"I've been doing the gallery circuit for a while now. I try to break out of the usual routes & explore new territories and outposts but, I admit, it is not regularly enough. So it is with pleasure when I learn of something new, such as Gallery 8, discovered via Sydney's Art Month. The gallery is an artist-run space in a great part of town, at the bottom of Kent St, on Argyle Place, Millers Point right next door to the Lord Nelson Hotel. The shopfront space follows a bend in the road, so it isn't until you actually round the corner and are standing in front of the window, that you have any sense of what it is.
Art Month Sydney fills a much needed gap. There are many festivals in this city, rolling across the annual calendar, celebrating most things cultural but until only 3 years ago, there was no dedicated spot for the visual arts. It is a fantastic idea for artists, gallerists, collectors and newcomers, to dedicate one month to all things visual in Sydney. There is a lot on offer throughout the year, but the focus Art Month affords has to be good. I think there are still teething issues, about managing the scale of the programme and spreading it evenly across town and the allotted few weeks, whilst meeting the needs of the key stakeholders - gallerists, artists, buyers - but it takes time for these things to come together. It possibly needs a central point and focus, something of its own, from which all other official events spin off. It will gradually firm its foundations and find a true direction. La Roma wasn't built in a day ...
It was an image on the its website that caught my eye - a sculptural installation at Gallery 8 by Kath Fries in her exhibition 'Scorch'.
The works feel modest until you realise that each small wall piece is bronze. There is nothing modest about working in bronze. It is ambitious, laborious, intensive, expensive and made to last a life time. The wall pieces are small bronzed magnolia branches, slightly more than twigs, dotted with buds. Some are intertwined with a rough string, some weighed down with a pendulum-like lump of charcoal. She speaks of things impermanent being rendered permanent. The budding branch is destroyed in the casting process but reformed in bronze, its burgeoning growth suspended in time. Fiery processes have destroyed both the branch and the wood, to recreate one as a bronze replica and the other, a charcoal remnant. The small branches sit as 'details' of the large floor installation, "Hold dear" 2011. Medium becomes the metaphor for the artist who says of her practice "the transcience of existence and fragility of life are recurring themes..."
The artist-run space is a varied phenomenon and often works as a collective set up: the artists supporting each other to exhibit, promote and sell their wares in an environment which allows for greater experimentation and exploration. Funding bodies play a major role in these spaces, supporting the set up and administration of them as well as the projects themselves. Fries' installation was supported by a grant from NAVA, the NSW Artists' Grant initiative."
Fiona McIntosh
Art out there14 March 2012

Scorch - open gallery, Visual Art - Spectrum, SMH

Lynne Dwyer, Scorch, Open gallery, Visual Art, Spectrum,
The Sydney Morning Herald, March 10-11 2012, page 12

"SCORCH - Magnolia branches cast in bronze and bound by twine and charcoal are a comment on life's transience, says artist Kath Fries, who talks about her work at 3pm tomorrow, with MCA's Megan Robson and gallery curator Peter Cramer, an Art Month event. Until March 22, Tuesday-Sunday, noon-6pm, Galleryeight, 12 Argyle Place, Millers Point."

Lynne Dwyer, Scorch, Open gallery, Visual Art, Spectrum, The Sydney Morning Herald, March 10-11 2012, page 12

Palate pleasers, The Sydney Morning Herald

Hannah Edwards, Palate Pleasers, Special Promotion for Art Month Sydney,
The Sydney Morning Herald, March 10-11 2012, page 3

"Art lovers can enjoy a feast for the eyes and taste buds thanks to a series of art and food events... Check out beautiful art inspired by nature while sipping boutique beers provided by the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel during a free event at galleryeight, Millers point, on March 11. Artist Kath Fries will be on hand to discuss her work." 

Hannah Edwards, Palate PleasersSpecial Promotion for Art Month SydneyThe Sydney Morning Herald, March 10-11 2012,  page 3

Talking through your arts on 2SER 107.3FM

Talking through your arts, promotional image, Angela Stretch, 2SER 107.3FM

On Saturday March 17, the Art Month Sydney Gallery Cycle Tour stopped in to see my solo exhibition Scorch at galleryeight and I spoke about my artwork and processes live-on-air to Angela Stretch, the radio presenter of Talking through your arts on 2SER 107.3FM

Kath Fries, Scorch gallery window sign

Talking Through Your Arts is your weekly look at the arts. From the fine arts to spoken word we explore all that Sydney has to offer, from underground events to large festivals we delve into the cultural life of this city and beyond.

2SER 107.3FM - Real Radio logo

My new artwork portfolio website is now live!

This project has been assisted by an ArtStart Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government's arts funding and advisory body.

Thank you to Arnel Javier Rodriguez for the website design and Art Month Sydney 2012, Peter Cramer and Megan Robson for helping me launch the site at Galleryeight

Scorch installations at galleryeight

Kath Fries solo exhibition, 3 - 22 March 2012
galleryeight, 12 Argyle Place Millers Point, Sydney

Kath Fries, Hold dear, installed at galleryeight
part of Scorch solo exhibition, detail viewed through gallery window

photograph taken by Kath Fries 

Kath Fries, Hold dear, installed at galleryeight, part of Scorch solo exhibition, detail view
photograph taken by Kath Fries

Kath Fries, Hold dear, installed at galleryeight, part of Scorch solo exhibition
bronze, nylon and charcoal, 195x530x120cm

photograph taken by Kath Fries
Kath Fries, Hold dear, detail view, installed at galleryeight,
part of
Scorch solo exhibition
photograph taken by Kath Fries

Kath Fries, Scorch series, 2012, bronze, twine and charcoal
photograph taken by Kath Fries

Kath Fries, Scorch vii, 2012,
bronze and twine, 33x22x8cm

photograph taken by Kath Fries

Kath Fries, Scorch iv, 2012,
bronze, twine and charcoal, detail view

photograph taken by Kath Fries

Kath Fries, Scorch vi, 2012, bronze and twine, 37x24x10cm
photograph taken by Kath Fries

Beer and Fries recommended by Concrete Playground

Above image: Concrete Playground's The Ten Best Things to See and Do at Art Month Sydney
Screenshots from

Concrete Playground recommends the Ten Best Things to See and Do at Art Month Sydney 2012 

"Art Month turns three this year, returning with its city-spanning hook-up of contemporary art, galleries and the general public. Orbtiting the calendar opposite Art and About, Art Month shifts the focus to many on Sydney's smaller art institutions, with a month-long schedule of tours, talks, cycles, trails and exhibitions. 

The gargantuan scale of its full program can be a little overwhelming. Luckily, Concrete Playground is at the ready with this guide to Art Month's 2012 foray..."

Coming in at Number 4

"Beer and FriesSydney artist Kath Fries gets about. Dropping sculpture in cemeteries, winning her way to Tokyo with the Japan Foundation's New Artist Award and now a selection of installations in Millers Point's for Scorch at galleryeight. The show casts tree branches in bronze, mixing them into art with nylon, charcoal and a touch of mess. For her Art Month talk, Beer and Fries, Kath gets combined in conversation with MCA Curatorial Assistant Megan Robson and galleryeight director Peter Cramer. At the talk's end, galleryeight's geographical advantages get used to good effect, finishing with a free craft beer-tasting next door at the Lord Nelson Hotel." (Zacha Rosen, 5 March 2012)

To read all of the recommendations from Zacha Rosen at Concrete Playground for Art Month Sydney 2012 go to

Thanks to the Lord Nelson Hotel

Street view of The Lord Nelson Hotel, 19 Kent Street, The Rocks, NSW 2000
Photograph courtesy The Lord Nelson Hotel

A big thank you to galleryeight's famous next-door neighbour, The Lord Nelson Hotel, for sponsoring Art Month Sydney 2012 Food and Art Event - Beer and Fries.

Interior view of The Lord Nelson Hotel
Photograph courtesy The Lord Nelson Hotel

The Lord Nelson Hotel is Sydney’s oldest licensed hotel, located in the historic rocks precinct and home of Australia’s oldest pub brewery, brewing 100% natural ales since 1985. The Lord is famous throughout the globe for its fine, award winning natural ales. The Lord brews 100% natural ales using only malt, hops yeast and water with no added sugars, preservatives or additives. 

The Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel
Image courtesy The Lord Nelson Hotel

Beer and Fries - 3pm Sunday 11 March 2012: Kath Fries in conversation with Megan Robson from the Museum of Contemporary Art and Peter Cramer from galleryeight. Launch of Kath Fries' new art portfolio website Followed by complimentary craft beer tasting courtesy of the Lord Nelson Hotel.
More info Beer and Fries

Art Month Sydney Event - Beer and Fries

Beer and Fries - Art Month Sydney 2012 Food and Art Event, Scorch, Kath Fries, galleryeight

Art Month Sydney 2012 Food and Art Event

Beer and Fries - a viewing and tasting

11 March / 3pm - / galleryeight / Free

"A conversation with artist Kath Fries and curator Megan Robson, lubricated with award winning beers from The Lord Nelson Hotel. A unique chance to view Kath's new work, understand her process and enjoy a free tasting of boutique beers from The Lord Nelson Hotel's brewery next door. Kath Fries creates site-sensitive installations using natural elements and domestic materials. In her most recent work she works with bronzing natural materials."

galleryeight: 12 Argyle Place, Millers Point, NSW, 2000

Scorch - accompanying exhibition texts

to render permanent that which is impermanent

The transience of existence and fragility of life are recurring themes throughout my practice. I use natural materials like twigs and charcoal to form a poetic commentary on human relationships with nature and our personal struggles to accept what is natural and uncontrollable in our lives.

Kath Fries, Hold dear (detail view), bronze, nylon and charcoal,
installed at galleryeight. Photograph by Peter Cramer.

The sculptural pieces in this exhibition suggest metaphoric narratives of our fallible human endeavours to hold together and immobilise moments of growth, decay and memory. Hold dear (2011) reflects on the human grieving process and the challenge of emotionally letting go of loved ones after they pass away. A bronze cast magnolia branch protrudes out of the wall, tied with black nylon netting that stretches across the space to seemingly drag a mound of burnt wood along the floor. The strength of the branch, tension in the netting and dead weight of the charcoal infers a poetic commentary about our human resistance to natural cycles of aging and occurrence of death.

The bronze twigs in Scorch (2012) are balanced precariously, simultaneously fragile and resilient, marking a pause in time between the fiery furnace that formed them and a future moment of unravelling and succumbing to gravity. The word ‘scorch’ conveys tangible quick impact and flinching response, describing a fleeting moment that has past rather than the present remnant objects of the final artworks. As such Scorch and Hold dear trace futile attempts to render permanent that which is impermanent, echoing the recurring pursuit of contradictory endeavours in our lives.

Kath Fries, March 2012
Artist statement, Scorch exhibition

The artist would like to thank:
The NSW Artists’ Grant initiative and NAVA, Peter Cramer, Megan Robson, Vivienne Fries, Arnel Rodriguez, Crawford’s Casting South Strathfield, The ArtStart Grant program and The Australia Council for the Arts, Parramatta Artists Studios, Sydney College of the Arts The University of Sydney, The Lord Nelson Hotel, Art Month Sydney and galleryeight.


SCORCH: Kath Fries solo exhibition
2 - 22 March 2012
12 Argyle Place, Millers Point, NSW 2000


Kath Fries, Hold dear, bronze, nylon and charcoal,
installed at galleryeight, photograph by Peter Cramer

the world that we know

The world that we know is reconfigured and remade in the work of Kath Fries. In her artworks, which encompass artist’s books, installation, painting, photography and sculpture, we are taken to another place, one in which familiar objects are transformed into something unrecognisable and unexpected. She creates situations that play with assumed behaviours and expectations to consider human relations and our interaction with the natural world. In the exhibition, Scorch, Fries considers the futility of attempting to try to influence the progression of time. Presenting a major sculptural installation, Hold dear (2011), and a new body of work, Scorch (2012), the artist explores ideas around the progression of life and the nature of memory.

Much of the Fries’ practice is ephemeral in nature, she frequently works within public or outdoor spaces, in which the work is subject to both natural and human interaction, and uses organic materials, such as coal, wood, feathers and flora, which deteriorate over time. The artist documents and re-presents her temporary constructs in the form of photographs and artist’s books. The changing state of the works in both the original context and their subsequent presentation in recorded form, not only emphasises the elusive nature of the work but also reflects life cycles of growth, change and decay. Additionally a consistent trope in the artist’s work is the reinterpretation of elements from previous works. In new works, existing materials and crafted objects from previous artworks take on different roles and meanings. The instability of the artist’s works draws parallels with the nature of the world around us and the fragility of life.

Kath Fries, Hold dear, bronze, nylon and charcoal
installed at galleryeight, photograph by Peter Cramer

Hold dear is a large-scale installation that consists of a large bronze magnolia branch, which appears to have grown through the wall rupturing the enclosed gallery space. Multiple buds are dotted along the branch, tightly closed teasing us with a promise to bloom into metallic blossoms in an unknown future. Wrapped around the branch is a length of black netting trailing down to the gallery floor, weighed down by a mound of black charcoal. A trail of black soot can be seen behind the mound, tracing the path from where it has moved from its original position a short but not insubstantial distance away. There is an ambiguity to the scene that is unsettling. At first it appears that the netting is slowly becoming wound around the branch as it continues to grow encroaching into the white gallery space and pulling the mound of charcoal to be brought closer to the bronze branch. And yet, from a different angle it appears as if the fabric is being used as an anchor in an attempt to restrain the branch. A bronze branch caught by a dead weight.

Site and context play an important role in Fries’ works, informing material, construction and interaction. Additionally, the artist often references folklore, fairy tales and historical myths in her works, exploring representations of daily life and the real world within fictional constructs. Referencing familiar counterpoints such as a story from childhood or an architectural feature of the site, she creates situations that evoke particular sensations and personal memories. Through such devices her works create their own elusive narrative, seeming to be both of this world and at the same time entirely foreign. In this exhibition, Fries challenges the assumed distinction between the gallery environment and the external world. By presenting material that appears to have physically permeates the sterile white environment, the artist draws broader observations about attempts to restrict and control unstable life forces.

Kath Fries, Scorch series, bronze, twine and charcoal
installed at galleryeight, photograph by Peter Cramer

A series of small bronze magnolia branches are suspended from the wall in the artist’s new series of works, titled Scorch. Some of the branches are tied up with twine, others with weights of coal hanging like pendulums. Other branches are left bare, but look like desolate trophies, undignified and completely removed from their natural environment. Where twine is wrapped around the branch, it appears to be an attempt to restrict or control their growth. There is a sense that twine and charcoal ballasts have, if not proved futile, only minor impositions to the growth of the young branches. For despite any similarity the specimens may initially exhibit on close inspection it is apparent that each branch is completely unique. As the line-up of twisted organic shapes in Scorch illustrates no attempt to tame or subdue time can control life, or death.

In Hold dear and Scorch, Fries has used a direct casting technique which creates a unique replica of the living magnolia branches. The very process of casting an object in bronze is one that demands an act of destruction to create the finished artwork. To create the bronze casts a mould is made around the branches, which are burnt out when the molten bronze is poured into the moulds. It is then the act of attempting to as the artist notes ‘render permanent that which is impermanent’ which enforces the impossibility of such a task. Although the bronze is an exact copy, the original living form no longer exists and all that remains is a static object.

The magnolia branches scattered with small buds, are representative of life and its possibility. In creating a bronze cast of the branches at this particular moment, Fries draws our attention to both life and death. The branches, now permanently immortalised at moment in which they are on the verge of blossoming with new life, are a symbol of the fleetingness of time and the cruelty of creation.

In the exhibition Scorch, Kath Fries’ brings inanimate objects to life. In these tableaus the objects do not simply represent living objects but were once themselves independent living forms. In this way the objects are both selected and arranged in reference to this  conceit. In this regard the exhibition is a memorial to time. The works, Hold dear and Scorch, meditations that change is inevitable despite human persistence to halt its progress.

Megan Robson, March 2012
Catalogue essay, Scorch exhibition

Kath Fries, Scorch series, bronze, twine and charcoal
installed at galleryeight, photograph by Peter Cramer