Fanchon Fröhlich, Beryl Bainbridge – a friendship Gallery4allarts, Gallery 1 18th Sept – 29th Sept 2010
review by Gayna Rose Madder
Fanchon Fröhlich is, I think it is fair to say, one of the most under-rated artists of these times, given her vast and esoteric body of work, her life experiences and her quite extraordinary and unique ‘take’ on her subjects.
This is a rare chance to view, and certainly to buy, rare pieces of her historical works.
In this exhibition, which is to commemorate Beryl Bainbridge in paintings and drawings of her and her friends and family, the artist captures the spirit of an age – the sixties – which is both knowing and innocent, and now almost impossible to imagine. The equivalent of a ‘Bloomsbury group’ of that time, Fanchon, Beryl and their high-profile husbands formed a glamorous and erudite society crossing several career and social boundaries.
Featuring a self-portrait by Fanchon, a philosopher from Oxford and later an abstract painter, in the ‘Beryl period’, drawings of her husband, Herbert Fröhlich, a Professor of Theoretical Physics, of Beryl Bainbridge and her husband Austin Davis, a painter (when he had just completed a huge painting of “Dejeune sur l’herbe”), this intimate and insightful show also features touching pictures of Beryl with her babies.
I was fortunate enough to meet Beryl Bainbridge, a lifelong literary heroine of mine, five years ago, and then to visit her home in Camden. The sensitive paintings and drawings here capture the paradox between her angular, almost androgynous features, the brittle, sometimes caustic nature of her prose, and the much softer and more gentle, always open and generous nature which lay beneath the underlying wit and understanding of her novels.
Fanchon ‘s huge canon includes representational paintings and abstract expressionist paintings and etchings. She has collaborated with artists from France, Italy, United States of America, England, Ireland and Taiwan Her artwork unites philosophy of science and art, evident for instance in the ‘Position of Light in Art’ and the ‘Paradoxes of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art’ to the book she co-edited with Sylvie le’ Seach (who was also a pupil of Hayter): ‘S.W. Hayter Research on Experimental Drawing: Systems of Oscillating Fields’.
Jeremy Reed states that “Part of Fanchon’s greatness lies in her ability to continually reinvent herself as an artist. Her writings on philosophy, science and art, her immense European culture, that also takes in the work of the American abstract expressionists, as well as the Japanese influences on her art, initiated by a period of work with Goto San in Kyoto, have all combined over the years, to the continuous and lively remaking of her art as the dominant expression of a life committed to imaginative creativity. Her work, always celebratory in tone and driving in energy, is the unstoppable example of an artist working with courage at the edge, and one who is prepared to accept all experience as subject matter for art, and to compound the risks proposed by pioneering into adventurous experimentation.”
Fanchon Fröhlich (nee Angst) was a philosophy student at the University of Chicago, where she worked with Rudolf Carnap (formerly of Vienna, and the founder of the Vienna Circle) and Oxford where she studied with Sir Prof. Peter Strawson, doing a doctorate in Primary and Secondary Qualities. She studied at Liverpool College of Art, then moved to St Ives to work with Peter Lanyon. Later she travelled to Paris where she worked with the sculptor Szabo and finally studied at Stanley William Hayter’s etching atelier, Atelier 17, all of the time preserving her faith in Abstract Expressionism. She married Herbert Fröhlich, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Liverpool University and at the Max Plank Institute in Stuttgart.
Some of the renowned artists and philosophers names that Fanchon has worked or collaborated with, since the ’50s, are: William Hayter, Elizabeth Anscombe, Peter Lanyon, Prof. Peter Strawson, Kenji Yoshida (Sayonara/ Mr. Blue Sky/ Japan; Paris), Goto San (Japan), Yasse Tabuchi (Japan) , Kuo Yu Lun (Taiwan), Lawrence Ball, Jeremy Reed, Jane McCormack, Sylwie le’ Seach, and many others. For performances there is a musician from London, Laurence Ball, who improvises according to the motions of the artists and the atmosphere
© Gayna Rose Madder 2010. Some parts of this article edited from Gallery4allarts information supplied.
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