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 Brookes University in 2002. Solo exhibitions include: ‘Disintegration’, Galerie Kornfeld, Berlin (2020); ‘Lost Men’, BEERS London (2019); 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: UNTITLED Miami Beach, Galerie Kornfeld (2019); ‘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).