If Paul Fryer isn't a name that's familiar to you then it should be. For our money, Paul is one of the great success stories to come out of this city in recent times. We've been lucky enough to work with Paul on the Hebe produced Back to Basics exhibition at Leeds Gallery; his contribution is a sound sculpture, a portrait of the clubs promoter, Dave Beer, which has become the centre piece of the exhibition.
The parallels that can be drawn between Paul and the man behind the Back to Basics exhibition, Dave Beer, are uncanny. Both freely admit to a fairly misspent youth, both attended but dropped out of art schools, both played a truly seminal role in reinventing the club scene in the north of England, both have committed a significant part of their lives to music, both are spiritually enlightened individuals (that's code for "have some pretty wild beliefs") and both have sustained an artistic practice, although their approaches and interests are wildly different.
Paul was born in Leeds and lived here until he moved to London in 1996. While here, Paul played an instrumental role in creating the influential Art-based Kit Kat Club in the late 80's, and the city's first multi-sexuality club night, Vague (about which a book is curently being written), which gave birth to what is now Speed Queen. On moving to London to peruse a career as an artist, Paul took up residence in a studio in East London, neighbouring with the artist Gary Hume, whose Flashback exhibition is currently on display at Leeds Art Gallery. This was the time before East London warehouses were transformed into luxury dwelling places, when a tight-knit, creative community had begun to form. It was through this community that Paul was introduced to the Creative Director of fashion brand Fendi, where he would go on to spend five years working as their Musical Director, responsible for curating the soundtrack for fashion shows around the world. In his first outing, naive to the logistics of coordinating models down catwalks, and sticking to his brief to create a precise 18 minutes of music, Paul was responsible for leaving Jodie Kidd naked (in audio terms) halfway down the catwalk during New York Fashion Week. Still, despite his oversight the crowed loved his work and so did Karl Lagerfeld who became a supporter of Paul's during his time at Fendi.
Following his five years at Fendi, Paul decided to return to his studio practice as an artist, leaving the world of fashion to develop his own work. It has since been shown at leading galleries around the world including Tate Britain, White Cube and The Royal Academy in London as well as public and private galleries in Paris, Berlin, Venice and Dallas, Texas. Whilst much of Paul's work is realised as sculpture, he has also published a series of books including a book of his own poetry. He has also collaborated with a number of key curators and artists, including fellow loiner Damien Hirst.
Paul's work is currently on show in Leeds, Florence and a new solo show, The Electric Sky, is due to open at Pertwee Anderson Gold in London on 23rd March 2012. As the press release for The Electric Sky explains:
"Paul Fryer is noted for working with electricity in all its forms; from lightning machines propagating millions of volts to particle accelerators generating tiny superheated plasma stars with temperatures measured in the millions of degrees. His recent sculpture, Revelation (rain), is a machine which permits the casual viewing of cosmic rays arriving on earth as flashes of lightning in a glass box and Fryer has even recreated the environment necessary to produce the subtle patterns of an earth-bound Aurora Vitralis in a bell jar."
"In his latest show The Electric Sky, Fryer investigates the connections between life on earth and astronomical phenomena through the motif of lightning, creating multiple images and representations of this dynamic electrical energy in both two and three dimensions, exploring both existing and new theories of the fabric of the universe."
It's been a pleasure to spend some time with Paul, and hear about his career in fashion and the arts. We'll be heading down to London to check out The Electric Sky but, in the meantime, for anyone who wants a taste of Paul's art, his sound sculpture will remain on display at Leeds Gallery until 17th March 2012.