Date(s) - 07/09/2019 - 12/10/2019
There are no beautiful surfaces without a terrible depth.
– Friedrich Nietzsche
After showing with the gallery various times since its inception in 2012, Robert Fry returns with his first proper solo at the gallery, simply entitled, The Lost Men after his series of paintings with the same title.
The mind is a complex vessel; it is laboriously studied and houses fathomlessly unknown intricacies and recesses. The human mind is capable of such force and power, yet remains a fragile organ, rich with many incalculable dimensions.
So too could one say about the works of British painter Robert Fry: his work, which has always housed an undeniable level of psychological charge, is often coded in enigma, complexity, and even an obsessive use of purple that comes across almost as a sort of artistic armor: enticing the viewer while holding them always at bay. What compels the artist – any artist really, to perform in such a determined, obsessive state?
While the artist has always been reluctant to divulge too much of his work’s intentions, the appearance of the works alone, with silhouetted figures, applied surfaces, repetitive words, an obsessive but abstracted attention to detail, have always maintained an element of autobiography that surely becomes evident to any viewer upon even the most cursory viewing. These are paintings about psychological states: a moving and powerful portrait of ‘Man’ – and likely the artist himself – but viewed with a veil, through subterfuge, as though a poem laden with complexity, or a portrait viewed through a fogged mirror.
The composition of the paintings often depicts two standing figures presenting clashing, conflicting personalities, as two representatives of the same individual. Minds that are present and absent, beautiful and terrible. For Fry, the intention behind using life-size figures is to facilitate the viewer in challenging their preconceived image of the male form and identity. The works suggest a sort of religious reverence we often reserve for artists like, say, Mark Rothko or Cy Twombly or Jackson Pollock. But Fry situates himself with the same sort of conceptual framework often saved for these abstract expressionists by tapping into our psychological reservoirs: these are haunting, emotive, expressive works. These ‘lost men’ are any man, everyman. Lost men that dissolve in and out of our reading, just as our very own identities can feel obfuscated at times.
So Fry has presented us with a series of Lost Men for us to let our thoughts wander through like a forest of emotion, color, and poetry. We are invited, as viewers, to look both closely and abstractly, and see what sort of revelations we may make about the works, about Fry, and most importantly, about ourselves.
*In the UK alone, it is estimated that 1 in every 8 men struggles with mental illness. A portion of this show’s proceeds will go a mental health charity of the artists choosing.