Interview with Glasstress Artist Paul Fryer

Based in London, Paul Fryer utilises electronic media and sculpture to create installation pieces in unexpected exhibition sites. He presented his first solo show in 2005, Carpe Noctum, at Trolley Gallery, London and has gone on to show work all over the world. Glasstress: White Light / White Heat is a Collateral Event of the 55th Venice Biennale and combines the work of 50 artists, including Fyer among others, such as, Mat Collishaw, Tracey Emin, Cornelia Parker and many more. The exhibition will be on display at The Wallace Collection and Fashion Space Gallery in London from 27 November until the end of February. Aesthetica speaks to Fryer about his involvement in the project and his practice as a whole.

A: Why did you want to get involved in Glasstress?
PF: I was asked by James Putnam, a curator who I have worked with before and have a lot of respect for. I really liked the concept of the exhibition and the fact that so many artist friends were in the show too, but perhaps most importantly I was very excited about the possibility of working with Murano artisans. A measure of my involvement was that I went to Murano to make one object and ended up making 10. Silvano, the master I worked with, is a humble and generous man who happily let me use his incredibly skilled hands and extensive experience to realise my vision. The whole thing is a credit to Adriano Berengo, whose studio is responsible for the show.

The works I made for the show are based on high speed pictures of water droplets, sometimes coloured, sometimes plain. I am delighted with the results and in the elegant way that they were realised. Glass, being a liquid, was perfect for the representation of these frozen forms. The structures lasted less than 1/1000 of a second, and because the glass is liquid it slows down the collapse of the form but does not actually stop it. In a thousand years the glass will be a puddle on the floor, the same way as the water droplet was.

A: You use electronic media and sculpture – why is that?
PF: I use many different techniques in my work; I am not defined by a single medium. However, I do have obsessions with the properties of certain elements of the physical world. Further down the line I like to cross pollenate these elements and see what happens. Recently I have been moving away from the prescriptive, deterministic method of making art where I have an idea and then employ myself to realise that idea. Instead, I am now working in a more open ended and exploratory way and this has beautifully coincided with production for the Glasstress show.

A: Unusual exhibition sites are central to your work, do you start your pieces with the location in mind?
PF: If you take the “norm” as an art gallery then I guess you could say that I have had works shown in unusual places, but from my perspective there is little real distinction between one man made space and the next, in that they are all buildings. I have made work specifically for a given location but this is more likely when I am invited to show with a specific brief to produce an installation. However, when preparing any exhibition it is normal to take the room into account when deciding what to show. It’s easier to exhibit in a white walled gallery because anything you put in there already looks like art.

A: You have exhibited internationally, is there a particular space/place you’d like to present in that you haven’t before?
PF: I’d like to show in so many places, including Japan, Norway, Brazil, The Ukraine, the Grand Canyon and the Sahara. I’d also like to display work in a deep forest or in the middle of a giant, still lake. And I’d love to have a crack at the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern; I have a great idea for it. That said, I don’t mind too much where my work is seen as long as I can keep going.

A: Which artists have inspired you throughout your career?
PF: Artists I have never met, who have inspired me through their work alone such as Paolo Calzolari, Yves Tanguy, Wolfgang Paalen, Delia Derbyshire, Philip Larkin and a host of others. I am also influence by artists I know and who inspire me by direct example: Damien Hirst, Abigail Lane, Angus Fairhurst, Sarah Lucas, Rebecca Warren and many many more.

A: If you could collaborate with anyone working in any practice who would it be?
PF: I think I may be collaborating on an album of music with Erdal Kizilcay, which is pretty exciting. I used to sing so it’s a reprise of an earlier life. It’s really nice to work with friends. I’ve worked with Mat Collishaw before which was a pleasure and I would happily revisit; one day I’d like to work with Keith Tyson who I respect both as a friend and artist.

A: You also work with wax, what was it that drew you to this form?
PF: It’s a very old medium and the most sympathetic way of rendering the human form. Light transmission inside the wax imbues it with an inner glow similar to the light suffusing living flesh. I like the way waxworks are like fetishes; rendered as humans with real human hair and somehow imprinted with an analogue of the spirit of the maker, perhaps as a vibrational echo. It is creepy and beautiful at the same time. However, this strange resonance which comes from the artist seems to inhabit all work made by that artist. People who know my work could tell it was me if I made them a cup of tea.

A: What do you have planned for the future?
PF: I will try not to let the evil, horrible influences in this world drag me down. I will try to survive and keep making work in the face of everything. I will do my best to stand up to the demonic and corrupting influence of those who would enslave others for their own gain. I will try to prove that humans are beautiful and that life is worth living even though we are challenged every day by the corrupting power of greed and the ruthless methods of those who make nothing but expect everything.

Glasstress: White Light / White Heat, The Wallace Collection and Fashion Space Gallery in London from 27 November until the end of February.

1. Glasstress: White Light White Heat – Paul Fryer, Nebula, 2012, Aluminium frame, borosilicate bell jar, high speed vacuum pump, embedded control unit, aluminium anode form, ceramic insulators, high voltage transformer, piano lacquered case, 1600mm x 600mm x 600mm © Paul Fryer.