For the first time, our gallery juxtaposes the works of two painters, Tina Schwarz and Robert Fry, who treat the body as a bearer of general human emotions and feelings. Notwithstanding the differences in theme, motivation and artistic expression, their respective works are characterized by the combination of abstract and figurative forms, as well as the use of different techniques in one and the same painting. The viewers are invited to enter the artists’ imaginary associative spaces, in which a variety of themes resonate and where unambiguous statements are consciously eschewed in favour of a staged polysemy.
Born in 1980 in London, Robert Fry always produces groups of works or series. In their focus on the human body, his paintings are akin to those of Lucien Freud or Francis Bacon, yet one also finds influences from artists like Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell or Mark Rothko. The volatile relationship between the sexes, as well as the often tense relation between the individual and the other, between mind and body, are central themes of his work.
The artist refers to his most recent paintings as “Square Paintings”, large-scale, square-shaped canvasses, marked by contrasts: figuration vs. abstraction, body vs. surface, ornament vs. gesture…They show four human bodies, male and female, surrounded by an abstract colour space. The silhouette-like figures are variously filled with either monochrome or coloured geometric fields. Yet others are endowed with body parts and faces, drawn with a small number of deliberately placed strokes. Traces of the gestural, such as drops, dashes of paint or vigorously drawn lines and tangles of lines, overlie strictly defined colour fields, while glazed parts are juxtaposed with segments, in which the thickly-applied paint turns into physically tangible matter. Letters, which do not always instantly assemble into words, complement the image. The internal picture frame – a defining feature of Robert Fry’s work – is reduced, gusset-like, to forms that fill out the four corners of the image field and is also, for the first time, partially covered by the figures themselves.
The exhibition is complemented by new etchings, in which the artist continues his explorations of space, while establishing a motivic link with earlier series.
Robert Fry studied in Oxford and was shortlisted for the prestigious John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize. In 2016, his works were shown alongside renowned artists, such as Marina Abramovic, Louise Bourgeois, Paul Cézanne, Tracey Emin and Egon Schiele, in the exhibition “The Nude in the XX & XXI Century“ at S|2 in London. In 2015, he was listed in Thames and Hudson’s ‚100 Painters of Tomorrow‘. His works have been shown at the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg, in LA and in many exhibitions throughout Europe. He is represented in prominent public and private collections worldwide, including the Saatchi Collection, the Museum of Modern Art Moscow and the collection of Mario Testino.
In 2016, Tina Schwarz (born in 1977 in Friedberg) spent an extended period of time in Los Angeles as part of a residency programme at Hooper Projects. Before studying Fine Arts at the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts, she studied dance at the Dansacademie in Arnhem. It therefore seems almost logical that all her works up to now are defined by a corporeality, revealed not least through traces of movement, produced in the process of painting itself. “A body tells the story of its ‘host’”, Tina Schwarz writes, “and it thus might be that the measuring out of the canvas with oil paint, chalk, pens etc. is the only pure form of my memory.” Memory is internal movement, and in Tina Schwarz’s images this movement becomes visible. The physical becomes a manifestation of the psychic, generating stimuli, which owe as much to consciousness as to the unconscious.
Tina Schwarz’s latest works show several figures in different constellations. Dancing, they seem to want to push each other off the canvas. The artist not only tolerates, but actively stages contrasts and contradictions: moments of escalation are juxtaposed with a relativisation of time through a suspension of dynamic processes, sketchy parts are contrasted with more detailed ones, colour sits next to drawing, variety next to reduction.
Her paintings, as well as the drawings and collages that she creates simultaneously, are influenced by literature and the drawings and graphics of the Old Masters: Rembrandt, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Goya, Velazquez, but also George Grosz, Otto Dix, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon. Artists of humans and of the human.
Yet Tina Schwarz does not remain at the level of paraphrase, but strives to update both the content and the artistic form. In other words, the thematic and motivic inspirations work towards the contemporary, as it is reflected in history. Oriented towards the timeless, without repudiating the present, she strives for allegory, while constructing a polyfocal labyrinth of uncertainties.
The works of Tina Schwarz have been shown at numerous exhibitions in the US and Europe, and are represented, amongst other places, in the Rema Hort Mann Foundation. Notable exhibitions include “Ein Zimmer für Alfred Flechtheim” at the Osthaus Museum in Hagen, 2015, as well as her participation in an exhibition during Skulptur Projekte 2017 in Münster.