Bernard Frize studied at the École Supérieur d’Art (School of Art) in Aix-en-Provence, France, and the École Supérieur des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Montpellier. He was awarded an artist in residence grant at Villa Medici, Rome, Italy, in 1984 and at DAAD, Berlin, Germany, in 1993
When asked what he enjoys most about painting, Bernard Frize once said, “If I succeed in inventing a small mechanism, an engine that runs by itself. One that no longer needs me.” Frize’s conceptual painting, which has also been described as “peinture automatique,” is based on conditions that initiate processes that make the production of painting visible on canvas. He likes to work in series, often several at once, as a way of testing and exploring the possible outcomes of his decisions.
Bernard Frize occupies a unique position in the discourse of abstract painting due to the austerity of his artistic ideas paired with a simultaneous freedom of implementation. He loves paradoxes in painting: “In order for chance to work, you have to create conditions that make chance possible. One of these is having a lot of time. It is a rather complex thing to arrange situations in which you do nothing and things happen by themselves.” Color is another paradox, for it does “not particularly interest” him, despite being a vital raw material for his work. By using color in a nonhierarchical and experimental or technical-mechanical manner, Frize highlights painting as a handicraft, while also discounting the idea of the act of artistic creation. Frize lends his works a certain dynamic through an investigation of painting’s contradictions. He mixes synthetic resin with fluid acrylic paint to avoid all traces of a personal touch and the emotional effect of brushstrokes. The resulting picture planes, at once alluring and hermetic, have become a trademark of his painting style.
Selected solo exhibitions: Centre Pompidou, Paris (2019); Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (2015); Fondation Fernet-Branca (with Günter Umberg), Saint-Louis (2015); Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen (2010); Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense (2007); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2003); Musée d'art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2003); S.M.A.K., Ghent (2002); Den Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (2002); mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna (1999); Kunstmuseum St. Gallen (1999); Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster (1990).
Bernard Frize participated in the Venice Biennale (1990, 2005), the Biennale of Sydney (1998), and the Shanghai Biennale (2000).
Selected museum collections: Tate Gallery, London, UK; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main; Kunstmuseum Basel; Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich; Kunstmuseum Stuttgart; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris; Musée de Grenoble; National Museum of Art Osaka; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Bernard Frize was awarded the Fred-Thieler-Preis in 2011 and the Käthe-Kollwitz-Preis in 2015.