Good Weekend Art Column

Merrick Fry – ARO Gallery, Sydney

Published September 15, 2020
Merrick Fry, 'Rambutans on Lombok Beach' (2018)

Artist: Merrick Fry

Lives: Annandale, Sydney

Age: 70

Represented by: No commercial galleries (Proudly independent!)

His thing: A varied collection of still lifes in mixed media

Our take. Merrick Fry has been exhibiting paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations for over 50 years. Blessed and cursed with colossal skill and a restless temperament, he has worked in both abstract and figurative styles, occasionally on a grand scale. Fry has shown with some good commercial galleries but never produced the streamlined, signature works that sell most readily. Nowadays he makes whatever he pleases, and holds his own exhibitions in rental spaces.

For his show at ARO Gallery, called Still Life In It, Fry has created delicate, naturalistic still lifes painted in watercolour, with traces of chalk pastel, pencil and charcoal. Although the compositions and subjects can be unconventional (Fox with Mixed Passionfuit, etc) by Fry’s standards these are remarkably simple, attractive paintings.

The artist took up the still life motif in response to a family crisis, finding that he needed the discipline of working methodically from observation. He brought a force of concentration to bear on each work, gradually easing himself back into the stream of life. In these arrangments of fruit, blossoms and sundry objects, we seem to view everything from an aerial perspective, suggesting that for Fry a still life is also a kind of landscape.


Can I afford it?

It’s surprising to learn that after all these years, the record price for one of Fry’s works is only $5,000. This is not a reflection on his abilities, but on his maverick temperament. The highest price you will pay for a piece of this exhibition is $3,200, for one of three pictures: Capsicums on Chinese Tablecloth (65 cm by 94 cm), Rambutans on Lombok Beach (66 cm by 93 cm), or Seven Quinces and Two Candles (49 cm by 94 cm). The least expensive are seven studies of melons – six on paper, one on papyrus – at $600 each. These paintings are all different sizes, being priced idiosyncratically.


 Where can I have a squiz?

ARO Gallery, 51 William Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney.

1- 20 September, 2020.


Published in The Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 September, 2020