Bernard Frize is Beyond Abstraction


French painter Bernard Frize is celebrated for his abstract, colorful artworks. Created across four decades, each series of his expressions is crafted in a distinctive form.With defined rules in place, the artist analyzes then paints all possible versions, before reinventing his work in an entirely new series with its own set of rules.

Personally distant from the process, Frize focuses on the techniques that realize his paintings. The ever-evolving artist—whose aptly-named retrospective Bernard Frize. Without Remorse is upcoming at the Centre Pompidou in Paris—shrugs off the idea of the painter as a creative icon. He is in fact, the antithesis of an art star persona. Frize titles his works only for cataloging purposes and prefers new forms and ideas over a signature style, even after 40 years as an artist. “I am more interested in the paintings that do not exist yet than those I made in the past,” Frize tells CR. “That is probably why I am still painting.” Nuances of concept and meaning, he leaves wholly to the viewer. His creative aim is to explore painting’s visual possibilities, and bring broader understandings onto the canvas. CR speaks with the innovative creator about the concepts that influence his art, the role of chance in his process, and the enduring freedom of never repeating his own work.

You have said that painting is the only medium to ever interest you. What is it about the art form that has held your attention for four decades?
“When I started to get interested in art, I was drawn to painting because it has very reduced rules and there are few creative limits. I quickly realized that every time you put art on a canvas, you connect to art history.”

Across your varied painting styles, what are the principles that guide your practice?
“Rules help guide the practice, otherwise the world of art is too open. You cannot play the game without limitations, and most of the limits are materiality.”

You have said that the artist should make as few decisions as possible in creating artwork. Why is it important for the work not to be personal?
“The non-choice mainly concerns colors. Mostly, I work with chance—inside pre-set rules—in the process of making paintings. Leaving some art process to chance is inspirational, and often triggers other ideas.”

Each series of your paintings is distinct. What connects the phases of your work?
“Many times, it is the same idea with different solutions. I am trying to find new angles, but in fact, what is within the paintings is often the same. (It is mainly form and correction of form.) I try to put a problem on the canvas and find a way to describe the problem at the same time.”

How do you feel about color in your paintings—is it a trademark feature or a chance evolution?
“Ideas and subjects cannot be made with color. When I started, everyone was doing monochromes. Color was mostly used to distinguish one work from the other. Now I see it as part of the process, and I like to include as much color as possible.”

What are some of your favorite inclusions for your upcoming retrospective at the Centre Pompidou?
“For the exhibition, the curator saw a different vantage than I did in my works, which is very interesting to me. I like to see my paintings through other people’s eyes.”

You have said that your goal is to never repeat yourself in your work. How will you find infinite inspirations for your creativity?
“Matisse said that his best inspiration was his own work. I also believe inspiration comes naturally from daily life, simple but true. Much of the time I work with ideas and theories. Exhausting a theory often leads me to another theory, or another painting.”

Do you feel there is anything still to be realized or fully understood about your artwork?
“I am optimistic by nature, even if very skeptical. There might be some more work to do.”

Bernard Frize. Without Remorse is on view from May 29, 2019 through August 26, 2019 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.


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