Monotypes and Cutouts (1980)

A monotype is made by drawing with inks on a glass plate – then a print taken by placing paper over the glass. These works were produced in Wellington, New Zealand, and were created spontaneously from memories of the Australian landscape which I was homesick for.


Merrick Fry’s Monotypes, Charles McCausland

Style in writing has been called “a thinking out into language”. Style in painting can be called a thinking out into shapes and lines and colours and textures. Let us follow out this idea in the semi-abstracted monotypes by Merrick Fry.

In the first place there has been acute observation of the visual character of cattle, of trees, of still water in dams, of running water in a river, of hillslopes, of erosion gullies, of skies. The artist’s eye has had to be selective, to be disciplined, in what to reject; then the artist has had to select again what to put down – an even stricter discipline. This is the process in the creation of simplified, coherent forms derived from the million chaotic details of natural objects.

These monotypes are the creations of an artist who knows his bush as well as his brush; they are of Fry country, back of Bathurst. Fry has ruthlessly cut out all irrelevant details, emphasising what has to be underlined, subordinating what has to be played down so that strong and satisfying abstract designs appear. In one of the small coloured pictures, collage – a sharply cut piece of white paper – has been used boldly to representthe flat simplicity of water in a dam.

So much for what the artist has done in making these pictures.

For the viewer – the person with whom the artist must communicate – the important thing is not how the picture was made, but what it is. To me these monotypes are vivid, alive – the cattle are as you see them in the bush when your eye moved from one beast to another, not taking in every detail, but seeing the essentials of posture and movement, shape and colour; the dams are calm and flat; the river runs by its dry banks, the trees grow grimly out of harsh soil. Any picture must be considered as an abstract of shapes, just as music must be considered as an abstract of sounds. These pictures are excellent in their unity and simplicity. Through the use of a few strong colours, the smaller pictures retain the classic simplicity of the large black and white.

In these days when the photographer often does better than the painter, it is refreshing to see in Merrick Fry’s exhibition things that the camera cannot do, and should not attempt.

True to the form of his previous shows, Fry’s originality and artistic integrity have combined once more to produce a striking series of pictures.


  • 01: Twin Trees, 1978, monotype - versatex textile ink, 33 x 23 cm
  • 02: Olive Ground Dam, 1978, monotype – 2 block, 32 x 20 cm
  • 03: Dark Hill, 1978, monotype - versatex textile ink, 32 x 20 cm