Bernard Frize


Brosilla (2013). Image courtesy of Galerie Perrotin

Seminal contemporary artist Bernard Frize puts down his brush to talk to Ysabelle Cheung about his latest series of hypnotic abstract works


The exhibition you’re bringing to Hong Kong is titled ‘On the Side Where There is No Handrail’. Is the title meant to provide an additional dimension to the works or to sum it up?
A title could also work as a way to remember the moments of an exhibition. This title nods to the language of stage direction, emphasizing the painting’s theatrical qualities. Why not look at my work as figurative painting (what kind of question occurs when looking at a still life?) or possibly its opposite, allowing the abstract to remain abstract?

In a recent interview you stated that your most recent works aim to pose the question ‘Is there a form of continuity in this world?’ Why did you choose the particular shapes in these paintings the squares of colour, the lines and the fluid areas to approach this topic?
There is no equivalence between painting and language, otherwise what a painting represents would have been verbalised. The actual experience of a painting is about a whole bundle of paradoxes that are conveyed. Painting is about making contrast, outlining figures on a ground, discriminating colours and at the end, staging harmony. In our lives, we constantly have to adapt our self to all the sensations, all the feelings and the events we experience minute by minute; we are trying not to lose our self in social relations, in any unknown situation we meet or any trade we make. When I make a painting, I have to make choices all the time; is it that different in the everyday life? How do I use my experience, experience that I can name mine in the mass of the information of the day. The world presents it-self as an obstinate and invading whole and I always have to measure and figure out the thread of scepticism.

Is there a continuity not just in the single pictures themselves but from one picture to another?
An exhibition resumes a moment. There is a kinship between all the canvases I am showing: they look different but they inform each other mutually. Several of my recent paintings have this wild-eyed look, and that's probably where my work is at today.


Seplia (2013). Image courtesy of Galerie Perrotin

Does it matter how they are arranged or aligned?
I have chosen a group of paintings for the exhibition in HK, I do not know yet how I will display them in the gallery. I did not think about a specific order when I gathered them. I think that the length of the walls will help me to display them into the space. Anyhow, there is only one exhibition space the paintings will surround the visitor without any sense of hierarchy.

How did you choose the colours and do you start with one, say, blue, and then consciously plan the next one, then the next?
I act on colours as forces. Their own hues or qualities are not interesting in themselves. Which means that I use the colours in their multiplicity like for instance the anecdotal and purely conventional multiplicity of colour charts. There are forces insofar as they are produced
by a differential; a colour is a force as long as it enters into a relationship with other forces that can be construed quantitatively in an aggregative fashion. I do not subordinate the application of the colours to an image but rather make an image of the application of colour.

The process of applying paint to canvas itself differs in all your series. How did you create this particular series and how did you manipulate the paint to create these images?
Painting is for me an operating field. Nothing heroic. Only a reflection about efficacy and distribution of decisions. My skills have no quality and paint is applied with large brushes, sometimes painted with various colours, sometimes dipped in colours… the ordinary way.

What were some of the technical challenges you encountered with this project? Do you strive to push yourself with every new group of work?
I am not working in order to make exhibitions; I work and then choose the paintings which could be interesting enough for a show. It is exciting to meet them in an exhibition and they look very different from what they were in the studio. They become public and I have to see them being not mine anymore. I also understand then, that I have to work and find threads to the unknown to come.

On the Side Where There Is No Handrail Galerie Perrotin, Aug 29-Sep 29.


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