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Pieta, 2006, Paul Fryer

Paul Fryer / Age Of The Marvellous

In the second of our previews of All Visual Art's Age of The Marvellous we talk to Paul Fryer about electric storms in hell, the eternal nature of the soul and the Jolly Green Giant...

This month, All Visual Arts present Age Of The Marvellous, an exhibition inspired by the 'collections of curiosities' ubiquitous in the era of The Renaissance. Featuring 60 works by an exciting cabal of contemporary artists it promises to provide some fascinatingly skewed investigations into the zeitgeist. In the second of our previews we talk to participating artist Paul Fryer whose works force viewers to consider notions of temporality and perpetual transformation – whether he is carving wooden bombs, employing nuclear fusion to capture the birth of a star in a giant bell jar or firing lightning bolts across a gallery space, his awe-inspiring creations never fail to inspire wonder. We kicked off by asking him to talk about two of the pieces he has in the show that will no doubt kick up a storm of controversy, much to his chagrin...

Dazed Digital: Can you tell us about the pieces you are exhibiting in The Age of The Marvellous. What is the significance of placing the figure of Christ in an electric chair and nailing primates to the cross?
Paul Fryer:
 Why religion? Because I am a believer. The symbols and iconography belong to me as much as anyone else. They are mine to do with as I see fit. I mean, what the fuck does anything have to do with anything? Why does everything have to be explained? Okay... I'll try. The figure of Christ isn't just in the electric chair he's starved and he's black. Hundreds more black people have been executed in the chair than white people. More black people starve to death than white people by what you could call a significant margin too. We still execute people 2,000 years after Christ's death. And he was black too. Back then the guy must have thought he was wasting his breath. God only knows what he would think if he saw the world today. It's just as well he was resurrected because if he was in the grave he'd be turning in it. As for the apes, at the rate we're killing them all the lowland gorillas will be dead by the year 2020. Do animals have souls? What a question. We should be asking the same question of ourselves.

DD: Does the notion of apocalypse inform a lot of what you do?
 Apolcalypse means revealing. Revelation. The world is in a constant state of apocalypse. Every day new things are revealed, every day millions die. We live in the middle of a constant, rolling apocalypse.

DD: When did you begin creating art? 
I began making art as soon as I could think. When I was about four I made a spaceship out of a big old washing machine carton that I could get inside. It had a screen and controls with switches dials and lights. I went very far away in it.

DD: What attracts you most to working with electricity? 
 Electricity is life. It is thought and light. Life is dangerous and beautiful. So is electricity. I want to make a HUGE MONSTER lightning generator in the turbine hall at the Tate. I want to suit people up, give them ear defenders, respirators and sunglasses and put them in the middle of an electric storm in hell.

DD: If you had to sum up why you create art how would you do so?
 Because I must. Because if I could describe the things I make with words I wouldn't need to make them. But they are ultimately little more than the by-products of my clumsy and moronic enquiries.

DD: I heard you were a fan of Phillip K Dick's Valis? Do you consider his writings to be prophetic?
Phil was a beautiful man, a gnostic evangelist. I would have loved to meet him. It's one of my regrets that I was alive when he was and I never made the effort to look for him. As for most literature, I tend to agree with Larkin "...Get stewed; books are a load of crap" (only joking).

DD: Do you believe in an eternal soul or a higher state of being? Do you believe the universe is approaching some kind of omega point?
 Which? The eternal soul is the higher state of being. We are in it whether we realise it or not. Omega point? What is that? I feel that we are constantly and eternally a part of the universe and that it will never end. The eternal coexists with the momentary. But the eternal is outside of time.

DD: What do you hope a viewer will experience when they experience your work? 
Wonder, ideally. But anything else is a bonus. I'll settle for anything but indifference.

DD: In Apocrypha you employ the symbol of the swastika, what draws to symbolism and is it your intention to encode your work?
 There is a code in everything. You can always find one if you look hard enough. And there are codes within those codes. But sometimes the patterns are so complex that they might as well be random. We recently configured a phasic lighting system of 30 flashing lamps which took 60x10 to the power 56 years to get back into phase. We decided not to use it as it was too abstract. But it wasn't random, just incredibly complex and incredibly lengthy.

DD: The Age Of The Marvellous is framed as a "collection of curiousities" as opposed to a straight exhibition. How do you think this affects the viewer's reading of the art?
 I don't think it's that relevant. I think it's what Hitchcock called a MacGuffin. But some people believe that Churchill insurance is run by a dog and that sweetcorn comes from the land of the Jolly Green Giant.

DD: But Churchill Insurance is run by a dog, right?

Age Of The Marvellous October 14 – 22, One Marylebone, London NW1 4GD