Robert Fry’s works, whether on canvas or paper, typically revolve around the act of stripping the human body down to its barest – often most psychologically charged – elements. He creates flattened forms and silhouettes which, when coupled with his trademark dark and brooding colour palette of purple, magenta, maroon, and oxblood, results in figures that ebb and flow from their surroundings. The works are often typified by subject matter that is culled from Classical references and motifs (including Renaissance archways and curving porticoes), skeletal and muscular diagrams (from the Vesalius Man to Arnold Schwarzenegger), or his own personal memory bank (imagined images of himself and his father, vistas from his West London home and studio), and – most recently – found magazine and pornographic material which has made its way, in collage-form, into the surface of the paintings, along with obsessively repeated text that creates a sort of onomatopoeia-like border around the scene itself. Fry is – at a base level – a figurative painter, but the work is so obscurely and poetically charged that to categorize in any one manner seems shortsighted: they are more like psychological landscapes, where figures are so obscured that we, as viewers, are forced to examine them in abstract means. The works perhaps recall Francis Bacon, where grotesque, writhing male figures seem trapped within an architectural space. His desire to withhold any easy answer from the viewer creates an unnerving tension between reality and fantasy, depiction and imagination. Fry believes that by always presenting the figure nude, he is permitted to explore the human condition in the most accessible manner, presenting the human body as a conduit of expression and meaning, devoid of any preconceptions that may otherwise arise through the depiction of their face, clothing, or background. Figures are often shown in groups, with one or more individuals representing either an ‘other’ or an alternative state of mind or being, and often laid one atop the other, stripped of identity and presented for the viewer in a totally metaphorical, painterly context. Fantastical, haunting, and poetic, Fry’s work is quite unlike any other contemporary working painter.
ROBERT FRY (b. 1980 London), graduated with a BA Hons Fine Art from Oxford Brooks University in 2002. Solo exhibitions include: Robert Fry and Casey McKee: Unpacking Ego, Space K, South Korea (2018); Robert Fry and Tina Schwarz, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin (2017); Partners, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin (2015) and Volta NY (2015). Group exhibitions include: Works on Paper, BEERS London, London (2018), The Therapist Office, 1969 Gallery, New York, USA (2018); Berlin Calling, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin (2018); 75 Works on Paper, BEERS London (2017); The Nude in the XX and XXI Century, Sotheby’s SI2, London, England (2015) and 100 Painters of Tomorrow, One Art Space, New York (2014). Fry will be having a solo exhibition with BEERS London in the fall of 2019.
Andrew Salgado’s paintings have evolved greatly in style since first rising to prominence over half a decade ago with his (then) signature large-scale, painterly portraits, where large swathes of colour played across the surface to define his subjects. In his most recent work – the representational has given way to the more abstract: and now such colourful, symbolic, and compositional elements are the driving force of the painted image. While the figures remain a common thread – today Salgado’s subjects are depicted in a fantastical, often ominous tableaux. There are abundant references to the tradition of figurative painting both historic and contemporary: Matisse, Gauguin, and Bacon are all readily recalled; while contemporary greats like Tal R, Daniel Richter, and Peter Doig are also referenced with equal reverie and respect – often like quiet in-jokes for a viewer to catch. The artist’s long-standing tendency to paint clowns and the absurd remain constant (in 2016’s The Fool Makes a Joke at Midnight, the artist had actual circus performers in the exhibition space during the exhibition’s duration), and again one sees faces are painted in bright orange, with purple noses and vibrantly coloured hair. Where there once was a plain background, which placed the figure at the forefront of the image, now there is a kind of harmonious cacophony, a medley of pop-coloured squiggles, harlequin patterns, and wonky block shapes–all of which may seem hastily scribbled if it weren’t for the fact that they slot into one another like an impossibly orchestrated puzzle.
Salgado’s more recent works have made a noted effort to distance himself from a 2008 assault (in which he was attacked for being a gay man), and are decidedly certainly more irreverent than his previous offerings: brighter, more celebratory, even theatrical. The artist carries this sense of play into his exhibitions, too. For The Snake (BEERS London, 2016), hundreds of butterflies were released to flutter amongst the audience as if they had burst from the artworks themselves; A Room with a View of the Ocean (Lauba House, 2017) saw an 8-metre ocean projection (and artificial ‘beach’) on the final room’s wall, inviting the audience to partake in a meditation of what they had seen; and the two-day-only exhibition Nature Boy (BEERS London, 2018) saw a pianist (at a baby-grand!) playing the eponymous song on repeat for the entirety of the show’s duration. For Salgado, similar to his increasing use of collaged elements, an exhibition is an opportunity to extend elements of the painting beyond the canvas–an invitation into his world of colour, fantasy, and fun.
ANDREW SALGADO (b. 1982, Regina, Canada) lives and works in London, England. He graduated with an MA in Fine Art from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2009, and has since had 13 sold-out solo exhibitions held all over the world, and is widely regarded as one of the UK’s leading young figurative painters. In 2017, Salgado was the youngest artist to ever receive a survey-exhibition at The Canadian High Commission in London, accompanied by a 300-page monograph, both of which were entitled TEN. Previous solo exhibitions include, Blue Rainbow, Angell Gallery, Toronto, (October 2018); Nature Boy, BEERS London, (2018); Dirty Linen, Christopher Moller Gallery, Cape Town (2018), A Room with a View of the Ocean, Lauba Art House, Zagreb (2017); The Snake, BEERS London, (2016); The Fool Makes a Joke at Midnight, Thierry Goldberg, New York (2016). He has exhibited his work at various international art fairs, including Zona Maco, Mexico City (2019); Pulse Miami (2016); and Volta Basel (2015). In 2015, Salgado curated The Fantasy of Representation, including work by Francis Bacon, Gary Hume, and Hurvin Anderson, with an impassioned manifesto on representational painting. In 2014 he was the subject of a documentary, Storytelling. He has received extensive press both online and in print, including GQ, The Evening Standard, The Independent, Artsy, METRO, Attitude Magazine, Globe and Mail (CAN) and Macleans (CAN). He frequently donates to charities including Pride London, Stonewall, and Diversity Role Models; his donations to the Terrence Higgins Trust are of particular note, having have raised over £75,000 in 5 years. In March 2019, he successfully entered the secondary market with a piece in a Strauss & Co auction in South Africa. Forthcoming solo exhibitions include a booth over Basel Miami (TBA, December 2019); and a fourth solo at BEERS London (October 2020). His works have been collected extensively in private and public collections worldwide.