It’s unusual for me to write about someone twice on my blog. Chris Friel, however, has been so adept at developing the craft of photography and finding new ways to disrupt and reinvigorate his view through the lens, that I just must.
After early work that captured country fields and lonely trees, to dark landscapes and multi layered pictures, Chris Friel turned to portraits. The faces he depicts are stripped of distraction. Life lies in their large baleful eyes and uncompromised presence. He seems to be interested in the statement of life through portraiture, here, (there are many clear portraits like this if you look through his work here) but in 500 thermal portraits from today 37degrees C 28 XY 010222 he takes this statement of life and distorts it. As you watch the image build and undo, fracture and reconstruct, digitalise into abstraction and then balloon with a naïve palette, back into full face, an understanding passes between artist and viewer that is personal.
This facial splintering is, for me, an allegory of our modern lives. We have, the work seems to be saying, not only many faces but many realities as the digital world pulls on our psyches. The process and, by extension, the work is both brutal and subtle, insidious and straightforward. In high temperatures which nature did not intend (or certainly not presently) the effect is exacerbated. And as we watch, we are ruptured without notice and built back with layers of fillers. We are rounded and boxed and blackened-out and both coded and discombobulated. We are stretched beyond recognition.
The ‘stills’ I have posted here are indications of Friel’s work, signatures of one of the current threads his work is exploring and that I have chosen to highlight. They, in themselves, are full of the lattice-work of life, its hard wiring and broad dough, its ineffaceable truth and angelic naivety. Even through our abstraction, humanness is undeniable.