Pia Fries

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Pia Fries

Pia Fries
Born6 October 1955
Beromünster, Switzerland

(born 6 October 1955) is a Swiss painter.[1] Fries was born in Beromünster, Switzerland and studied sculpture in Lucerne in 1980, and painting under Gerhard Richter at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1986. She lives and works in Düsseldorf and Munich.


Dana Friis-Hansen summarizes Pia Fries' work in a comprehensive review: "Pia Fries is one of an emerging generation of painters whose work results from a conceptual and aesthetic wrestling match modernist painting, the dominant artistic expression of the twentieth century. Perhaps it is too easy to project Oedipal overtones to this phenomenon, but in the late 1990s, the question "Is Painting Dead?" rose (once again) from the grave where it had been buried since the 1970s. Displaced as the avant- destination of choice by more pluralistic pursuits including sculpture, installation, performance, and transmedia, painting lost its primacy. Ironically, a generation later, the most advanced and dedicated artists are drawn to the activity again, yet rather than unabashed celebration, they seem compelled to resurrect painting by killing it.

Fries unleashes a cacophony of colour and texture onto each hard white field (wood panel primed with six or seven layers) to create her sophisticated, energetic paintings. A rigid surface is required for the processes she enacts; she was trained as a sculptor before shifting to this fluid, flatter medium, so her tools are important, and range from traditional choices such as palette knives, spatulas, and brushes to objects foreign to the studio including syringes, industrial objects, application objects she makes herself. This gives her myriad methods to manipulate the pure oil paint that is sometimes thickened with resin, sometimes thinned with medium, sometimes flatly silk-screened onto the face.

Addition and subtraction is part of a painter's customary process, and in her Duesseldorf studio Fries has several paintings in progress at once. The works evolve organically. "I take my time," she explains, "I like to step back, reflect, distance myself for the next step and then work again ... learning as I go on." The eye gains much from slow scrutiny of her episodic painterly skirmishes.

The viewer can easily follow the artist's journey, as these paintings are clearly built from separate painterly "events" spread out across the clean bright void. She subtlety acknowledges–and sometimes even emphasizes–the boundaries of the rigid quadrilateral through framelike, angular elements. But these are usually pushed to the side, offering counterpoint to the graceful swooshes, ethereal spills, muscular swipes, and awkward smears that dominate and draw our eye around the work. By distributing these varied incidents around and about the snow-white surface, she creates a visual music that connects less with the symphonic harmonies of Kandinsky than with the eclecticism of contemporary sampling and music concrete. The connection to post-modern pastiche draws from the wide index of "styles" of paint application found within one work, from thinned washes that suggest watercolor and flat, thick, hard-edged stripes to upside-down drips and plenty of messy squishes of thick pigment. Her use of color is daring and inventive, swinging widely between "recognizable" standards such as baby boy blue and sun yellow and unexpected mixes of orange, white, and purple churned together then smeared into yellow wiped through with pale green. It is with panache and intelligent control that she juggles so much at once, pushing and pulling us between mark and void, light and heavy, fast and slow, horizontal and vertical, straight and curved. Pia Fries pulls it off."[2]

Selected Collections[edit]

  • Aagauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland
  • Binding Stiftung, Basel, Switzerland
  • Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland
  • Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland
  • Neues Museum, Nuremberg, Germany
  • Niedersuchsische Kulturestiftung, Hannover, Germany
  • Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • 1992 Pia Fries, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Luzern; Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn
  • 1997 Pia Fries, Kunstverein Freiburg i.Br.; Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau; Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Kleve
  • 1999 La Biennale di Venezia: 48. esposizione internazionale d’arte: dapertutto
  • 1999 Pia Fries: parsen und module, Kunstverein Göppingen, (Kat.)
  • 2000 Pia Fries: en détail & en gros, Overbeck-Gesellschaft, Lübeck
  • 2001 Beau Monde: Toward a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism, The Fourth International Biennial, SITE Santa Fe
  • 2005 Extreme Abstraction, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
  • 2007 Pia Fries: Malerei 1990-2007, Kunstmuseum Winterthur; Josef Albers Museum Quadrat, Bottrop
  • 2008 Pia Fries: la partie élévatrice, Galeria Filomena Soares, Lisbon
  • 2009 Pia Fries: merian’s surinam, Galerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris
  • 2010 Pia Fries: zirkumpolar, Galería Distrito Cu4tro, Madrid
  • 2010 Pia Fries, Kunstmuseum Bonn
  • 2010 Pia Fries: ambigu, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen [de]
  • 2011 Pia Fries: krapprhizom luisenkupfer, Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
  • 2011 Pia Fries: Ausstellung der Kunstpreisträgerin, Villa Wessel, Iserlohn
  • 2012 Pia Fries: randmeer,[3] CRG Gallery, NY
  • 2013 Pia Fries: wetter fahnen fächer, Galerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris
  • 2014 Pia Fries, paysages maritimes,[4] Christopher Grimes Gallery L.A.
  • 2015 Pia Fries: windhand laufbein, Akku-Emmen, Emmenbrücke, Lucerne
  • 2015 Pia Fries: fernleib manual, MAI 36 Galerie, Zurich
  • 2015 Pia Fries: tabula coloribus, Kunstparterre, Munich
  • 2015 Pia Fries: volume & light
  • 2016 Ortswechsel, Werke aus dem Kunstmuseum Bonn, Schauwerk Sindelfingen
  • 2016 Pia Fries: oxyponto, Galerie Thomas, Munich
  • 2016 Drama Queens - Die inszenierte Ausstellung, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen
  • 2016 Tiefe nach Außen, Galerie der Künstler, Munich
  • 2016 Die Erfindung der Abstraktion, Akademie Galerie, Düsseldorf
  • 2016 Pia Fries: Weisswirt & Maserzug, Kopfermann-Fuhrmann-Stiftung, Düsseldorf,
  • 2016 Pia Fries: seascapes, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 2017 THINK-PAINT, Unix-Gallery, New York
  • 2017 Künstlerporträts Düsseldorf 1800 bis heute, Akademie Galerie, Düsseldorf
  • 2017 20. Kunstausstellung Trubschachen 2017, Trubschachen, Schweiz
  • 2017 Pia Fries: nasen und nauen, Galerie Ute Parduhn, Düsseldorf
  • 2017 Pia Fries, Moss Art Center, Virginia, U.S.A.
  • 2017 Hendrick Goltzius + Pia Fries: proteus und polymorphia, Museum Kurhaus Kleve
  • 2017 Pia Fries: Vier Winde, Gerhard-Altenbourg Preis, Lindenau-Museum Altenburg
  • 2018 Pia Fries: parsen und module, Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 9.3.-20.5.2018


  1. ^ SCHWENDENER, MARTHA (23 February 2007). "Art in Review; Pia Fries". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  2. ^ Dana Friis-Hansen in: Pia Fries. Vitamin P. New Perspectives in Painting. Ed. by Barry Schwabsky. Phaidon, London 2002, pp. 110–111.
  3. ^ http://crggallery.com/artists/pia-fries/
  4. ^ http://www.cgrimes.com/artists/fries-pia/exhibitions/[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]