In 2018 a generous gift sees Pia Fries's series parsen und module, dating from 1999 and comprising 30 identically-sized pictures, enter the collection at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. Accompanied by thirty other paintings and drawings recently presented at the Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Germany, this emblematic work is the nucleus of an exhibition offering an insight into the different facets of the Swiss painter's oeuvre.
For some years Fries has been taking an interest in the work of Dutch draughtsman, painter and engraver Hendrick Goltzius (1558–1617), one of the leading engravers of the early Northern Mannerism period. She has homed in especially on two of his series: The Four Disgracers, which delves into Greek mythology and the falls of Icarus, Tantalus, Ixion and Phaeton; and The Standard Bearers, in which guards are shown carrying flags on a pole. Both of these series of copper engravings stand out for their technical sophistication and the "exuberance" of compositions of which selected fragments have been freely integrated into Fries's own work. Alternating impasto with long streaks of paint, she underscores the sense of movement inherent in the fall of the bodies and the effect of the wind on the generous folds of the flags. Sculptural and vividly colored, Fries's painterly forms intertwine with Goltzius's fine black and white lines.
Born in Beromünster, near Lucerne, in 1955, Pia Fries lives and works in Düsseldorf and Munich. After initially studying sculpture in Lucerne, she became a pupil of Gerhard Richter at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf en 1986. Since the mid-1980s her works have taken the form of Bildobjekte, or "image-objects", with her use of impasto conjuring up crevasses and geological folds and setting her pictures on the cusp between painting and sculpture. Her use of color is direct and her composition vigorous. Each picture is the product of explorations and experimentation whose core concern is color as both substance and raw material.
(Photo: Hans Brändli © ADAGP, Paris, 2018)