Tracing Materiality - group exhibition

Tracing Materiality invitation, image: Renuka Fernando, Folded, 2015

Tracing Materiality is a project and exhibition by Sydney based artists Renuka Fernando, Kath Fries and Gillian Lavery, 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 will emphasise 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 the viewer. 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.

Kath Fries, Beeswax on paper - translucency, studio experiment 2015

For this exhibition I'll be exploring tactile and sensory engagements with materiality, and how embodied processes can conjure attentiveness to present time. Working with beeswax and paper, using scratching translucencies, drips, changing natural light and the beeswax’s aromatic presence, I'll respond to pre-existing features of the space. These installations will combine site sensitivity with the tactility and mutability of beeswax as a drawing material.

Tracing Materiality invitation, image: Gillian Lavery, Remaining, 2013

The works will develop and change during the exhibition, so repeat visits are encouraged. You can watch how the works evolve online, and everyone is invited to return on the final day to see how the works have grown and discuss the process with the artists by joining the Finissage discussion, chaired by Megan Robson, (Assistant Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia).

Tracing Materiality: 5 - 20 March 2016
Artists: Renuka Fernando, Kath Fries and 
Gillian Lavery

Exhibition opening and MOST artists' party: Sunday 6 March 6-8pm
Continuous drawing: Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 March from 2pm
Finissage discussion with Megan Robson: Sunday 20 March, 2pm

Chrissie Cotter Gallery: Pidcock Street, Camperdown NSW
Gallery hours: Thursday to Sunday 11am - 4pm

Tracing Materiality is presented as part of Marrickville Open Studio Trail (MOST) and Art Month Sydney 2016

Divest installation, The 64th Blake Prize

I’m delighted that my beeswax and ash installation, Divest, has been selected as a finalist in The 64th Blake Prize. This award aims to provoke thoughtful responses to the state of the world today by encouraging conversations surrounding spiritual thought, belief and non-belief, religion, hope, social justice, humanity and cultural diversity in contemporary art.

Kath Fries, Divest, 2016, beeswax and ash, 460x520x240cm
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, The 64th Blake Prize

Divest is an installation of beeswax and ash exploring the materiality of emotive states, poignant uncontainablity and the seeping intersections between the spiritual and physical, life and death, artifice and nature. Installed in a vertical crevice of the gallery, these beeswax polyp forms cluster together and gradually scatter out to seemingly invade the room, like barnacles or wasp nests creeping into human dominated spaces, unwelcome and uneasy. 'Divest' means to dispose - to deprive of rights or property. As the title of this work, Divest implies the loss of home and belonging, the emotional transient state of trying to attach and adapt to somewhere else. To be divested of home, family or identity is to seek refuge and sanctuary.

Kath Fries, Divest, 2016, beeswax and ash, detail view

This work is a cyclic embodied exploration of healing, fragility, abandonment, grieving and entropy. The beeswax funnels are brittle and empty, yet their fingerprinted surfaces evidence traces of warmth, movement and touch. Each form is scaled to encase a human finger, recalling how the beeswax was warmed and handled, moulded in healing and bandaging gestures, each piece was carefully wrapped around one of my fingers. These vestiges conjure ancient practices of using beeswax in healing and embalming processes, as a ritualistic material of both life and death.

Kath Fries, Divest, 2016, beeswax and ash, detail view

Beeswax also speaks of the hive; the bees’ honeycomb home, as a nurturing life force for the honeybees and focal point of their vital pollination roles in ecosystems. This implies an awareness of the current global honeybee crisis, emblematic of numerous growing environmental calamities threating the future of all forms of life on this planet. Extending this materiality metaphor Divest’s smattered ash echoes grieving rituals across many cultures, and on a personal level the act of scattering ash when installing the work, recalls my own father's cremation.

Kath Fries, Divest, 2016, beeswax and ash, detail view

The installation seemingly spills over a false wall and out of a corner of the gallery, conveying a sense that it cannot be contained, just as grieving and feelings of loss cannot be contained and can well up at any time. The repetitive contemplative process of individually creating each beeswax polyp form, conjures an embodied sense of present time that invites space for quiet reflection. As an installation, Divest invites the viewer into a similar state of private introspection.
More about my Divest series of installations -

Kath Fries, Divest, 2016, beeswax and ash, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre

The exhibition is currently showing at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre until 24 April 2016.

The 64th Blake Prize Finalists: Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Frederico Ozanam Agostino Camara, Cigdem Aydemir, Vilma Barder, Teresa Baker, Julie Barthyolomew, Zanny Begg, Adnan Begic, Liam Benson, Drew Bickford, Tom Blake, Nicole Breedon, David Asher Brook, David Brophy, Michael Cardacino, Angela Casey, Omar Chowdhury, Valerio Ciccone, Roderick Collie, Simon Cooper, Dale Cox, Hilary Cuerden-Clifford, Darron Davies, Keg de Souza, Tamara Dean, Lada Dedic, Shoufay Derz, Dongwang Fan, Emma Fielden, Tina Fiveash, David Frank, Kath Fries, Robert Hague, Megan Hales, Corey Thomas & Roger Mitchell, Mehwish Iqbal, Matthew James, Shannon Johnson, Fassih Keiso, Madeleine Kelly, Yardena Kurulkar, Tom Lawford, Anita Larkin, Sonia Leber & David Chesworth, Tania Maria Mastroianni, Ian Mcleod, Matthew McVeigh, Reg Mombassa, Celia Morgan, Glenn Morgan, Bill Moseley & Joanna Logue, Nasim Nasr, Claudia Nicholson, Katy B Plummer, Chui Yee Po, Madeleine Preston, Marlaina Read, Mark Rodda, Margarita Sampson, Georgia Saxelby, Pamela See, Helen Shelley, Damien Shen, Sam Shmith, Sally Simpson, Sarah Spackman, Catriona Stanton & Anne Ooms, Michael Strum, Abdullah M I Syed, Jasmine Symons, Angela Tiatia, Annette Thas, Paul Trefry, Linda Wachtel, Brenda Walsh, Deborah White, Zan Wimberley, Katy Woodroffe and Vera Zulumovski.

Handheld melting - video and ice installation

Kath Fries, Handheld – melting, 2016, ice and video projection,
dimensions approximately 60x50x30cm

Handheld – melting is my current video and ice installation, which involves a daily assemblage of different melting ice pieces. This repetitive embodied process engages with touch, materiality, temperature and transience. As I handle and place the ice pieces, I feel them melting against my skin and the immediacy of this engagement is also apparent to the viewer as the shape, form and reflections of the ice changes as it melts. The video of dripping icicles was filmed exactly a year ago, in Finland's frozen landscape and snowy climate, which starkly contrasts the hot humid weather of February in Sydney. 

Kath Fries, Handheld – melting, 2016, ice and video projection, detail view
Kath Fries, Handheld – melting, 2016, ice and video projection
Kath Fries, Handheld – melting, 2016, ice and video projection, detail view
Kath Fries, Handheld – melting, 2016, ice and video projection

Kath Fries, Handheld – melting, 2016, ice and video projection, detail view

Handheld – melting is currently exhibited in Her Moving Presence at AirSpace Projects, 10 Junction St Marrickville NSW, until 20 February.
For more images of this work please see