It was in the mid 1970’s, at a time when painting was regarded by many of his contemporaries as being obsolete that Bernard Frize (b. 1949, Saint-Mandé, France) began to focus his attention exclusively on the act of painting. His abstract compositions derived from elaborately constructed rules, carefully choreographed performances which determined entirely the works’ formal composition. In one early series Frize peeled off the coloured skins from pots of paint left open in the studio and applied them over the surface of the canvas, the wet paint on the disks’ undersides acting as adhesive. More recent compositions involve teams of assistants moving their linked brushes across a wet white ground, and like the participants in a may-pole dance, mixing colours and forming interweaving bands of colour as they go.
Frize's paintings might then seem to find their place within the rich and familiar territory of 'process painting', their lush brushstrokes acting as an index of the carefully choreographed rituals by which they are created. But there is a further twist to the story, and it is in this that Frize’s work truly stands apart. Close inspection reveals that any trace of materiality or depth to the painted mark is conspicuously absent. Rather than indexes of the act of painting, Frize presents his viewers with pure images of paint, colour and reflected light.