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 - www.kathfries.com

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. www.casulapowerhouse.com

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.