Across video and performance, Katharine Fry invites you into a world of unbearable images that insist as they seduce. Her work takes place in a domestic realm populated by women shut in attics, twisted under tables, spiralling round stairs or climbing walls. They blur between subject and object as they carry out perpetual tasks, whether perverted domestic duties of supporting furniture with their mouths or more Sisyphean tasks of regurgitating endless amounts of gravel. The context is one of enchantment as their bodies perform miraculous deeds without betraying a trace of fatigue.
Fry marries a mid-century aesthetic with the foreboding and oppressive atmosphere of gothic literature. Her worked is laced with the tension of a ghost story. There is a sense that something sinister is just about to happen. Invariably, the greater tension in Fry’s work is generated by her uncanny situations in which nothing happens.
Her characters span innocent girl-child, naïve gothic heroine and pristine housewife. All fantasy automatons, they appear barely alive, their vitality only registered through blinks and breaths as they carry out arbitrary, overly complicated and ultimately purposeless tasks. Unlike those of fairy tale and myth, these impossible tasks aren’t followed by any transformation or resolution. Instead her characters remain stuck, lingering in stagnant inertia and narcissistic withdrawal. Here Fry’s interest turns to arrested development. Her work is permeated with ambivalence, caught between fear of an unknown future and an impossible present. There is a traumatic undercurrent to each scene, with characters bound to return to something that is indigestible, beyond representation or held in a stasis that refuses any external encounter. In some works, narrative possibility is offered through a chorus of voices singing dissonant lines of encouragement,‘ just put your feet down child, one of these days you’re going to rise up singing.’
Her work plays out in the uncertainty between external reality and unconscious states. Drawing on personal experience, Fry opens up houses of enchanted objects, red shoes, fans, pearls, pebbles, and ribbons, ropes. To enter the windowless rooms of one her films is to find yourself bound in claustrophobic intimacy to the artist’s mind.
Katharine Fry is a British artist b. Belgium 1981. She is completing a practice-based PhD in Art at Goldsmiths. Forthcoming installations include an off-site project with Mission Gallery, Swansea, in 2019.