The atmosphere in the gallery is quiet, until the artist Katrin Fridriks walks in. The energy she exudes in person is the same spirit that infuses her abstract art and inspires a legion of loyal followers. Kristina Spencer spends some time with the painter and her work
Born in Reykjavik in 1974, Katrin Fridriks was shaped by the wild and untamed terrains of Iceland — both as a person and an artist. Her most recent exhibition, titled ‘Grey Area’ at JD Malat Gallery in Mayfair, London, explores the interaction between humans and the forces of nature. Fridriks is the first female artist to have her own solo show at the gallery.
The artist slips in and out of our conversation effortlessly, greeting friends and fans alike. When I ask if it is hard to be a woman in arts — it is International Women’s Day after all— she dismisses that claims of sexism and misogyny. “We are in a new era,” Fridriks explains, citing the MeToo movement as a catalyst for change. Yes, there are not as many female artists around, but she feels “honored to be one of the few.” So does gender really matter in arts? Not according to her. “If you are good, you are good.”
And Fridriks is good. Over the years, the artist has developed a unique, athletic painting technique, throwing buckets of paint on canvas, adjusting distance and angles with each layer. Fridriks cites her grandfather, who competed in the Olympics in 1952 as a discus thrower, as inspiration for her creative approach. To the naked eye, it takes mere seconds and the process might seem effortless. But the artist spends days in preparation, calculating everything from speed and angle to the density of her paints in order to create pieces that combine both control and randomness.
The creative process begins long before her canvas is set in front of her; she spends days physically and mentally preparing for a painting. Fridriks follows a rigorous diet and gets her body in a meditative state, with only electronic music allowed to distract her from her artistic process. It is rigorous and tiring, but the work radiates the explosive energy Fridriks pours into her art.
Not every canvas becomes a masterpiece, but Fridriks trusts her instincts. “You have to feel the energy in them – that is the whole point.” She is inspired by Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American engineer and ‘mad scientist’, whose goal was to create clean energy for all, at little to no cost. Tesla was tireless, obtaining close to 300 patents for his inventions around the globe. Similarly, Fridriks appears to be someone who never stops.
The gallery walls feature canvases of different shapes, meant to represent ancient temples that carry a spiritual energy within them. The circle is linked to Stonehenge, a mysterious place of Druid worship, while the triangle references the Pyramids of Giza, the last one of the ancient Seven Wonders still standing. What is her favourite piece? She reluctantly leads the way to what Fridriks calls “The Flower” (otherwise known as Tryptamine – Mother Molecule Changa, above), a constellation of six hexagons with splashes of yellow, black and white. Seeing them, you can understand Fridrik’s reticence; when every canvas tells a different story and oozes with drama, it is hard to pick your favorite, especially if you created them all.
She’s been called a ‘speed catcher’, with her thoughts and ideas ebbing and flowing at a constant pace, rushing from one concept to another. Surrounded by her canvases, she explains how colors are expressed through frequencies — black and white being the extremes within our visual senses. Why title the exhibition ‘Grey Area’, then? Because Fridriks wants your mind to travel – as hers does – to the area between the two extremes: the grey zone, where not many dare to go.
Images courtesy of the JD Malat Gallery