Paul Fryer studied art briefly at the Leeds College of Art in the 1980s but never did a degree in the subject. In the early 1990s he was instrumental in the creation of the widely acclaimed art-based clubs The Kit Cat Club and Vague. Before focusing on his own art, Fryer designed books for several galleries and projects, as well as working as technical consultant for a number of established contemporary artists. He has also written a book of poetry, ‘Don't Be So...’, which was illustrated by Damien Hirst and published in 2002.
He has exhibited in various shows and galleries since 1996, including ‘Lead By The Nose’, Livestock Market, 1996; ‘The Quick And The Dead’, Leeds City Art Gallery, 1998; ‘Sleight of Hand’, Transposition, London, 1999; ‘2001 A Space Oddity’, A22 Gallery, 2001; The Courtauld Collection Show 2002; ‘The BBC4 Launch’, Old Saatchi Gallery, 2002; ‘The Ark’, T1+2, 2005; ‘New Gothic’, T1+2, Tate Britain, London, 2006; ‘Reconstruction No. 1’, Sudeley Castle, 2006, ‘Young & British’, Galerie Jean Gabriel Mitterand, Paris, 2006; ‘Reconstruction Number 2’, Sudeley Castle, 2007; ‘Tempest’ (with Mat Collishaw, curated by James Putnam), Venice Biennale, 2007; ‘Avatar Of Sacred Discontent’, T1+2, Port Elliot, 2007. Solo shows include: ‘Carpe Noctum’, Trolley Gallery, London, 2005; ‘Petit Mal’, Masonic Temple, Kirsty Stubbs Gallery, London, 2006; ‘Radiations’, Julius Werner, Berlin, 2006; and ‘Potential And Ground’, Reconstruction and Kirsty Stubbs Gallery, London, 2007; and ‘In Loving Memory’, Guido Costa Projects and Reconstruction, Turin, 2007.
July 6, 2016Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick
Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA 6 July – 24 August 2016
December 6, 2013CHARITY BOOK: The Artist’s Colouring Book of ABC’s
A number of contemporary artists have collaborated on a charity project to create a children’s alphabetical colouring-in book, titled The Artists’ Colouring Book of ABC.
The project was created by Charlotte Colbert (of Humpty Dumpty Publishing) and the people behind Alteria Art. The funds raised will go to London based Kids Company Charity. The charity was founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh in 1996, supporting vulnerable inner-city children.
May 30, 2013Glasstress — White Light/White Heat, Contemporary artists and glass
Collateral Event of the 55th International Art Exhibition – LaBiennale di Venezia
Glasstress: White Light / White Heat will open at the preview of the Venice Biennale on 31st May at the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti on the Grand Canal and at the Berengo Centre for Contemporary Art and Glass accompanied by dynamic performances from Alice Anderson and Cai Guo Qiang.
See images of the collages on our blog entry on the show
Extract from an interview between Hans Ulrich Obrist (HU), Paul Fryer (P) and Colin Dancer (C)
Published in Radiations by Other Criteria
HU: One of the things I was wondering was: scientists usually do their experiments in laboratories, and artists usually do their experiments in studios. You have a laboratory and a studio, so I’m interested in this idea of what it means then for you to carry these experiments into the public arena…how the experiments are born, how they are then made public and what’s the role of the exhibition to exhibit an experiment?
C: I think how these things are born is really interesting. If you look at the star: we had to do a lot of these pieces…Paul said ‘Oh I heard about this thing called sonoluminescence’, which is where you can set up ultrasonic shockwaves in liquids and you can have these tiny little balls…
P: A tiny little star, you know, the size of a pinhead.
C: And it’s like – how can we show this to people? How can we show people fusion and stars?
P: So we were saying ‘Right: big magnifying glass, completely pitch-black room, grannies stumbling around in the dark – it’s not going to work. It’s really difficult to set up.’ Then Colin said ‘Check out the fuser,’ and the night that we were in Colin’s lab and we first made the star work…we made the star work and, to cut a long story short, it glowed in this jar and we all looked at it and we were all stunned to silence ’cause none of us had ever seen anything quite like it. And I had to leave the room and I went outside. This thing in the bell jar looked like a white fluffy ball, and I went outside and I looked up and the moon was out, a full moon, with clouds, and it looked exactly the same, and I was so shocked, and I thought ‘This can’t be true’. And then I looked down and all around me were dandelions, the heads of dandelions, glowing in the moonlight, and I thought ‘This is just bizarre,’ and I had the creepiest feeling of a natural thing, but the fact that we’d investigated this natural thing through the most unnatural means. Wasn’t it weird, that evening? But it was great though. So the actual making of the things, I think, that’s really where it’s at for me, when we get these things to work. Like, Colin – you’ve just detected cosmic rays, for instance.
C: Yeah, one of the new pieces we’re working on is a cosmic ray detector, so it will be a big tank and plates…
P: When Colin rings me up and says ‘Cosmic rays detected,’ and then we have to make a machine, obviously we have to make a device and try and make it beautiful. HU: The machines become the sculptures.
P: Exactly, so that’s where I kick in and I start thinking ‘Right, how are we going to do this?’ and Colin’s amazing technical ability, too, to be able to specify these things…
HU: The lightning machine is a series, really, so to what extent is there an idea of once you make an experiment it becomes a series? Is there a repetition or difference? They’re all so different…
P: We want to make a really big one…I have a dream of being able to make one that would fill the Turbine Hall, for instance, with lightning and people perhaps being able to walk in and see the lightning raining down on top of them – to be inside an electric storm…
C: The interesting thing with the lightning machines, for me, is that the first one was smaller but it’s kind of vicious: it’s in a cage, it’s on its own, it’s fighting to get out. Whereas the second one we built is much larger but it’s symmetrical, it’s balanced.
P: It’s just not as angry, is it?...To me it’s a question of if we could make something that made real lightning and that people could be in a room with real lightning and by real lightning I mean lightning that would appear to be between the thickness of an arm and a human body, and we’re talking about millions of amps here, and if we can get somewhere close to that and give people that experience…
HU: Some of your new, unrealised projects seem to be more immersive because, so far, if one looks at the experiment, there is the viewer and there is the experiment and there’s a…boundary between the viewer and the experiment. But I can imagine if I listen to both of you that your future experiments would be more immersive…
P: Well, there’s the big lightning generation. But that’s site specific, isn’t it, in terms of we’d need the right place to put it and that would dictate the scale of it.
C: But really it’s a machine big enough that you’re within it, so it’s what you said about immersion. So a lightning machine where you’re standing underneath it…right in the middle and maybe there’s a wire cage, maybe there’s not…
P: No, there would be, Colin. Come on.
C: And you’d be right in the middle of the Aurora [Borealis], it would be great…Huge difficulties, but it would be great to be in a room where you can actually see the discharges around you, you could see what’s going on. The cosmic rays one – clearly you’re involved in that…
P: With the cosmic ray detector it’s a box in which you see lightning flashes which correspond to discharges created by cosmic rays. But the thing is the cosmic rays have come a long way – from the other side of the universe – so what I’d propose to do is to create a film which shows the origins of the cosmic rays. It wouldn’t be didactic, but you’d start off with the sun in space, and then you’d see the rays travelling across space and time and descending through the earth, through the layers of the earth, and then coming down into the room basically and then the film would stop and the cosmic ray detector would be there. So even though this is, like you say, the object and the viewer, we’re already taking that step, I think, by thinking about these things.
C: The cosmic ray one for me is really immersive, because there’s a little area where what’s happening is illuminated: here you can see the cosmic rays. But the barrier of what’s going on isn’t the box. The box is the area where it’s been highlighted, but it’s happening to all of us, all the time. We’re standing in the flux of cosmic rays.
P: Yeah, it’s there anyway. We’re kind of in it…
HU: Listening to the two of you talking is almost like a permanent dialogue, a permanent collaboration. I was curious as to how this started, how you got to know each other and if you could describe a little this very special dialogue between an artist and a scientist.
P: Well I wanted to make lightning, and I’ve always wanted to make lightning. I used to go into television shops and ask the man there to teach me about electronics – and this wasn’t that long ago, this was about six years ago – and they’d just laugh at me and tell me to leave. And then I got on the Internet, of course, and I found this thing called the Tesla Coil Builders of the United Kingdom, which is this very strange egghead web ring. And these people are from all over the world and their hobby is making lightning, and they don’t really care a lot of the time what the machinery looks like. They just want to make bigger and bigger sparks, and they discuss a lot of technical aspects. But I was looking for somebody specific, and I wanted to meet somebody who was open-minded and would be able to help me but also with a possibility, with a look, to be able in the future to directly collaborate with that person. And I got Colin. It was like I dialled him up. It was very strange.
C: You asked some questions and I said ‘I think you should do it like this. You live nearby, pop up, we can do some work’.
P: He immediately helped me. There was no question of ‘Um…er…whatever’. It was like ‘Come over tomorrow and we’ll wind a coil’. And I was very nervous because I didn’t know him at all, and I went up there and we wound a coil on his lathe, with big gloves on, you know, with the wire and everything, and it just went from there. I think, Colin, you were really involved in your work, weren’t you? But it was the exhibition – I had this exhibition and Colin came down, and I’d pretty much built the first coil myself but with Colin on the phone, and helping me to do various parts, which were difficult, in person. And then he came down to the exhibition and I just think he got it, didn’t you?... HU: Earlier in the interview you mentioned there were three things and the Jacob’s Ladder, and we didn’t elaborate on this. Can you tell me about this experiment, because it’s another public display.
C: The lightning machines kind of push you away, the star draws you in. This one, basically you’ve got two metal rods and an electric arc that starts at the bottom, and then with the arc so hot, hot air rises so the arc pushes up, and at some point it gets too long and it breaks and it starts again at the bottom. It doesn’t always go up to the top. We could make it so it always went up to the top but it doesn’t. It’s got a life to it in the way it twists and turns, and it kind of goes up and it stops and goes up again and occasionally it will go up to the top. People will sit there in trances. P: The flame seems to struggle. All of these things in a way embody different human emotions in a sense. Like the star has a certain calmness to it and it reminds people of breathing and serenity, and it’s hypnotic – there’s a very religious and meditative element to it as well. And obviously the lightning machine can be seen as anger and passion, it’s destructive and aggressive. And for this one [Jacob’s Ladder], I always think of it as striving. It seems like it’s trying to get to the top, and people seem to be willing it higher, but it doesn’t always do it. Maybe once in seventy times it goes to the top, maybe not even that. As Colin said, we could make it go to the top every time if we wanted, but I like the idea that it struggles. It struggles against what is essentially nothing.
C: Which a lot of these pieces…that last stage is often tuning these things to get the right emotion from people, so there’s actually something for people to engage with. And this, for instance, going all the way to the top wouldn’t be the same piece. It wouldn’t be worth doing.
P: All of these things, I suppose, it’s an aesthetic, isn’t it? It’s thinking about the way things should be presented. But for me, I think, if you look at a given phenomenon, I think they nearly always suggest how they want to be shown. It seems a bit anthropomorphic to say that, like they’re talking to you, but in a way that’s what it feels like. It feels like they’re saying ‘This is the best way to do it’.
HU: It’s a very different form to when you go to a studio and you do a piece, and then you make a drawing, and then you get it built and all that, but it’s almost the other way round.
C: Oh, absolutely. HU: It’s almost like the experiment gives you the form. You then to some extent direct it. You’re almost like a director.
Video: Ascent into the Maelstrom
Click here to view the trailer for director Simon Hitchman's film on artist Paul Fryer.