TOM FRIESE ART
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We soon outgrew her basement studio and moved to another in the business district of our Chicago neighborhood. A ballet studio occupied the adjacent room. Some of my fondest childhood memories are the smells of oil paint, linseed oil and turpentine accompanied by the sounds of Swan Lake.
Chicago's Lane Tech High School offered classes in commercial art and The Art Institute of Chicago provided after school art programs. Next came a degree in Art from Albion College and an MFA in Printmaking from the University of Michigan.
As an Assistant Professor at Mankato State University, I taught lithography, block printing and drawing. 1977 marked a major shift in my career: the beginning of 40+ years as an interior designer and business owner. The medium, process and tools were different. The aesthetic and design principles the same. I left 2-D for 3-D, designing, constructing and furnishing three dimensional spaces in which people live and work.
Now I've come full circle. In 2015 I returned to my studio to paint abstract landscapes. One focus is my Flyover Series, looking down at the earth from a plane, tall building, bridge or ladder. Or, looking at what's immediately beneath my feet.
Cross country trips and around town drives offer material for another series: Road Trips. Looking out the window the landscape disappears as we move forward, images blurring as the car speeds ahead. I'm confronted with colors, textures and shapes as I ride or walk in the city or hike in the country. A third view is Excavate: Looking inside, through, underneath the landscape forms. Carving, scratching, removing. Exposing a specimen on a slide; magnified or reduced.
For the past several years I have been focusing on abstract paintings in two mediums, oil and cold wax and more recently acrylic/mixed media. Many of the
paintings elude to landscapes with or without a horizon line. Some are totally non objective. Regardless of medium, the paintings have many layers, using strong primary colors as textures build.
As the Covid Year (2020) slogged on, my paintings changed. No longer were they “at rest”. They became more active and primal. I carved into the layers of paint excavating forgotten colors. They looked subterranean. I loved OCW but became inpatient with the drying time.
In summer 2021 I switched to acrylic. I could apply layers upon layers of paint in a short time. I continued to carve with old dental tools.
My MFA is in printmaking. I love the feel of rag paper, its absorbency, color and
deckled edge. I started coating Arches Buff paper with 8-10 layers of acrylic medium. While it increased the weight of the paper, I could savagely scrape and carve into the paint surface. My work changed to horizontal lines, rapidly applied with squeezes, the paint both opaque or translucent. I began working on canvasses to increased size. I was on a roll.
One morning I entered my studio. Completed paintings filled the walls. I sat and looked at six month’s work. I felt the paintings did not belong to me. I had to slow down, reduce the colors and frenetic movement. All the work came off the walls and were stacked so I could only see the backs. It was a time of reflection and contemplation. I cleaned my studio. I went to galleries and museums. Enjoyed long walks and gradually returned to my studio.
I continued to prepare the Arches Buff paper. I began each painting with a large black geometric shape (the sum of all color) and a large white geometric shape (the absence of all color). I added one primary color. The BLACK+WHITE series began. The negative space became very important. The buff color of the paper was the perfect ground. The work was intentionally minimal. Every line, shape, texture, placement of color took days to reveal.
Current work continues the minimalism. There may be only one large geometric shape painted in one of the primary's. Pinstripe lines are thin and mostly straight providing to structure the image, almost making an architectural drawing. I no longer use Arches Buff paper. I prime the wood panels with the buff color or sometimes white or a neutral gray.
The BLACK+WHITE series were identified and titled with only a number keeping them totally non objective. Now paintings have descriptive names in place of numbers. These titles come after the piece is completed. With any abstract painting the viewer always wants to find an image they can recognize: a scene, people, a sail boat, an experience. I often asked “What is it?”. My reply, “what do you see”. Now after the viewer reads the title, “Oh, yea. I see it”
September 15, 2023 - October 27, 2023