A Painter Creates Her Own Materials to Illustrate Personal Memories

Artsy Editorial
Apr 3, 2015 11:24PM

“The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful” wrote Czech author Milan Kundera. Poetic memory, mysterious and heartbreaking, lies at the heart of Christine Frerichs’s paintings.

Installation view of “Christine Frerichs: Serenade” at Klowden Mann, Culver City.

One artist might try to recreate the way the sky looked over the ocean. A filmmaker might try to portray Manhattan in the moments before sunrise. Frerichs has her own memories—the things that made her life beautiful—the color of a lavender sweater her late mother used to wear, the particular shade of green of grass in Bryant Park. The Los Angeles-based painter uses these images as the basis for her highly textural abstract paintings. Her latest collection, “Serenade,” is now on view at Klowden Mann


Her process is intuitive and technically complex, starting with the materials. Like a dream that’s difficult to describe in words, memory is often difficult to capture or convey to others—which is why Frerichs has created a custom-made paint based on the tone of her own flesh, and a homemade substance that she calls A.C.P.—short for Activated Carbon Paint. The medium is a thick congealing agent that adds a particular texture and spirit to several of the featured works, including Pair (August clouds over Los Angeles) (2014). Using these one-of-a-kind materials as well as more conventional acrylic, oil, and wax, Frerichs builds up layers of material. While the colors represent people or places, the works appear abstract yet didactic, telling stories of relationships and past events. 

Each work is a beguiling swirl of hues and textures, absorbing and mysterious. The visual effect communicates something about the nature of human memory itself—instinctual, deceptive, elusive, emotionally charged. The art writer Andy Brumer draws apt parallels between Frerichs’s work and that of Jackson PollockLarry PoonsJay DeFeo, even Vincent Van Gogh, and also uses comparison to describe the in-person effect of her homemade materials. He explains that the material “supports, fertilizes, and almost bruises the paintings with what the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca called ‘duende,’ meaning a heightened state of soul. It’s also the same energy that pervades and characterizes all of the work in this powerful and riveting show.” Of course, no one, not even a legendary poet can recreate the way your mother’s sweater looked on a spring morning: that’s for Frerichs’ poetic memory alone, and for us, as viewers, to experience through her work. 

—Bridget Gleeson

Serenade” is on view at Klowden Mann, Culver City, Mar. 7–Apr. 11, 2015.

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Artsy Editorial