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Paula Friis

Art Ache 2018

Artist Profile: Paula Friis

Written by Rebecca Tune for Art Ache at LOT23, Auckland.

26th July 2018.

Automatic drawings – a process of creation made famous by the surrealists, is used as a way to access imagery from deep within the subconscious. Paula Friss applies this process to all aspects of her work, resulting in a final product that presents many fluid paths of seductive pareidolic colours and shapes.

Born in sunny Hawkes Bay Paula Friis now lives in Warkworth, Auckland. Paula was a finalist in the 2016 Wallace Awards and gained her Masters of Fine Arts from Whitecliffe College in 2018.

Friis has a wonderfully unique way of working which sees her first immersing herself in the natural environment during long walks in the Pohuehue Bush. This allows Friis space, time and a reprieve from ‘endless mind chatter’ and ‘information overload’ so that her mind can empty itself of noise and allow her to access her subconscious mind.

It is at this point the creative process begins. With heightened awareness of her surroundings and releasing herself to that space between the physical self and the natural environment, Friis starts drawing with as little thought as possible. These drawings are a nod to Surrealists artists who employed the method of automatic drawing to access imagery from deep within their subconscious.

It is in this subconscious space that encounters occur with endless possibilities and the natural environment allows direct, true experiences to take place.

Paula controls the fluidity of her automatic drawings and continued process of creation that stems from them with a sequence of strict rules.

‘The rules are simple. Drawings are always done in pencil, in a black journal and drawn faster than my mind can keep up.’

Back in Friis’s studio begins the process of developing these automatic drawings into shapes of colour. Shapes that will be layered and juxtaposed together to form a new pictorial language that is at once spontaneous and intuitive. In this journey of extracting shapes and collaging them together the act of Pareidolia takes place.


Pareidolia is the psychological phenomenon where the mind reacts intuitively to a stimulus (in this case coloured shapes) and sees recognizable shapes where none exist.

A common Pareidolia is the ‘Man in the Moon’, where people think they can see a face in the surface of the moon. The viewer observes both an emotional state and identity to the subject simultaneously. This happens before the conscious mind can begin to process the information presented.


Care is taken by Friis not to create a recognizable storyboard when choosing from her library of shapes to collate together in her collages. It is only once these collages are complete that the infinite possibilities of a pictorial language begin to evolve into a storyboard. The beauty of this is that often the story the artist will see is not the same as the observer. Everyone’s response is unique.

At times Friis leaves these shapes as coloured cutouts much like that of Matisse’s cutouts and Paul Klee’s fluid shapes. Other times these coloured card shapes evolve into paint and contrasting textural surfaces that play against the clean edges of the cutouts.


The art of Paula Friis is at all times in a state of flux and organic growth as the viewer processes the pictorial imagery Friis has chosen to present them with. The exciting thing about this is that the longer the viewer spends with the work, the more complex, powerful and seductive the storyboard becomes. It is the flow of the subconscious and its endless paths.

Written by Rebecca Tune for Art Ache, 26th July 2018.

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Art Ache Collection Artwork.

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