Artist Anthony Fry on why he’s happy to be back in Scotland.
As well as why he loves coming home to paint
As he prepares to showcase work inspired by exotic foreign locations renowned painter Anthony Fry tells Talitha Kotzé why he’s delighted to be back in Scotland.
Well-known for needing the heat to paint, Anthony Fry has spent a great deal of time in the south of India where, as he explains, the hot climate provides a kind of education that is not accessible in Britain. Heralded as one of the most notable English painters of his generation, he is still going strong at 83.
Fry, who started his degree at Edinburgh College of Art, is pleased to return north of the border for his first solo exhibition in Scotland: ‘I feel honoured to show with this distinguished gallery in Glasgow. I have always loved Scotland and its landscape.’
Being a figurative painter, Fry works within the traditional genres of landscape, portraiture and the nude. His canvasses have the meditative layering of a Rothko colourscape, but complemented by the descriptive execution of a Bonnard. Underneath it all lies a solid foundation in drawing, and it is this scholarly application that made the Cyril Gerber gallery eager to showcase his work.
In one of the paintings on show explosive pinkish burgundy hues serve as the backdrop to a sullen celadon-tinted landscape inhabited by a solitary Giacometti-like elongated figure painted in a Prussian blue, and an apparently tamed animal. The layering of pigment from his comprehensive palette, through a mixture between opaque and translucent densities, appears like thin plaster upon closer inspection and gives a textured spatial quality to his canvas. ‘Volcano Man with Hyena’ is the combination of two recurring motives: the dangerous hyena and the exhilarating potential of the volcano.
‘I always think that what I am doing at the moment is the best thing ever,’ says Fry. ‘When a painting is flowing, it is a mind-to-brush activity. You are mixing paint and putting it on canvas in a complete flow of the unconscious. Those are the jewel moments one is struggling for.’
Fry travels, in dreams and over land, to collect images that will sustain him through the hibernating months when he returns home to paint. He has travelled from Morocco through Algeria down to Mali and up to Greece, Turkey and Spain. It is the warmth and sunshine that illuminates the people in these landscapes and decelerates the pace of life. Back home, Fry says, he continues to paint until the painting reaches a stillness.
In his studio, shelves are stacked high with a spectrum of powdered pigment ready to be mixed into unique elixirs. Physical gestures and attentive brushstrokes will bring to life his stockpile of images, fixing his thoughts in incandescent colour and layered textures. Fry explains that ‘Under One Sky’ is an important work in which a journey is revealed through time and the culmination of ideas, Hindu legends of Lord Krishna and desert images that have been part of his vocabulary for many years now.
Fry has taught at art schools in and around London as well as in the US and today his paintings are held in several public collections at home and abroad. Jill Gerber, director and daughter of Cyril Gerber concludes: ‘Anthony Fry’s work is imaginative and arresting, we have seen it, we love it and are excited to be presenting his first showing north of the border.’
Anthony Fry, Cyril Gerber Fine Art, Glasgow, Thu 19 Aug–Sat 11 Sep.