Pia Fries initially trained as a sculptor in Lucerne in the late 1970s. At the beginning of the 1980s she continued her studies at the Arts Academy in Düsseldorf, where she took master classes in painting with Gerhard Richter. Since the 1990s, Fries has evolved into a painter-sculptor noted for her very unusual use of paint as a working material. When applying the paint masses to the white surface of the picture, she uses special tools – some of which she has made herself – to knead and disperse, layer and mix the material to form coils and craters, stains and streaks. The contrast between the areas of thickly applied paint and the dazzling white spaces separating them produces a sort of repoussoir effect that give the painted layer, rising up in full-bodied relief, particular power and sensuousness. The bare white foundation can also be seen as a kind of stage on which the energy-laden splashes of paint perform a highly charged, and at times even erotic, dance. In this "materialist" concept, the coincidental and the unexpected occupy a pivotal role.
Pia Fries also introduces trompe l’oeil-type elements into her works, using silk-screens of photos of her own and other people's work as the pictorial ground. In this way she achieves an alienation effect that accentuates the delicate balance in her pictures between reality and illusion, uniqueness and surrogacy, wholeness and fragmentation.