This story was featured in the January 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art January 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Douglas Fryer’s tonalist paintings are often described as pensive, atmospheric, and moody. “We’ve been impressed with Doug’s very moving and personal work for several years,” says Trudy Hays, director of Overland Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. This month the gallery hosts its first solo show for Fryer, which runs from January 13 through 31, with an artist’s reception on Thursday, January 23, from 7 to 9 p.m.
The show features 20 to 25 new works, including still-life paintings of fruit and landscapes depicting the farmland, mountains, and valleys of central Utah, where the artist lives and finds daily inspiration. “There is a beautiful combination of nature and agriculture in the Sanpete Valley and neighboring counties, where alfalfa fields are cut out of the cedars and the mountains rise straight up like a wall against the valley floor,” he says. “You are almost as likely to see a herd of deer as a herd of sheep, cattle, or horses.” Fryer’s deep sense of appreciation for his natural surroundings and the “simple yet profound” things in life is evident in his works.
“We are thrilled to welcome Doug’s new perspective into our gallery,” Hays says. “With his sophisticated technique, he has a wonderful ability to create a poetic visual effect, and his masterful use of paint transports the viewer to somewhere between reality and impression.” This concept of the real versus the perceived is a common theme in much of Fryer’s work. In fact, the painter describes his own artistic experience and intention in a similar manner: “I am greatly interested in conveying how my eye actually sees things and how my memory alters my perceptions,” he says.
All of Fryer’s works are painted on muslin, gessoed onto panels. He starts with a loose charcoal drawing and then blocks the painting in acrylics or oils. The majority of the painting is done with oils using a variety of tools, including trowels, knives, and brushes. “I use a direct method of painting, alla prima, as well as intermediate and final glazing techniques,” Fryer explains. But despite his proven techniques and methods, Fryer, like most artists, still experiences frustration at times. “You can work as hard as you want and frequently only ordinary things come out of your efforts,” he says. “I find that the breakthroughs usually happen when I listen to what the painting wants and forget the investment I have made to that point. I will take a leap of faith and recklessly attack the painting, allowing the materials and my intuition to take over. It’s a horrific thing sometimes, but there’s a wonderful sense of awe when the right way is revealed to you.”
As for the group of paintings in this show, Fryer takes satisfaction in knowing that he’s come “a little closer to communicating that elusive notion I frequently contemplate: that our natural world is imbued with powers and influences that are beyond our ordinary senses.” His sincere hope is that viewers of his work will be moved to contemplate this, too. —Lindsay Mitchell
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