Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meet Your Maker: David Frazer

David Frazer makes beautiful art... The Castlemaine local makes his living from making images (and sculptures) about living in the country - which isn't always easy.

While you can find his work in many a 'name' gallery and art collection around Australia, David worked hard to get there - and still does. In fact, he rarely stops.

His pictures are simple and powerful, and about 'things' you find when you live in the country; caravans (and caravan parks), fields, kittens, trees, birds, roads, people.. Yet somehow they are all slightly askew.. fraying around the edges, crumbling... plaintive, and slightly melancholic in depiction. Poetic.

Perhaps he is to the Victorian countryside what Howard Arkley was to Melbourne suburbia...

Left: 'Self Portrait with Home Made Golf Trophy, 2001', by David Frazer.

Here's how 'Rusty Smith from Coromby Newsagency, Victoria' described David's work on the home page of his website:

"Honesty is the key to understanding David Frazer's art. It's about truth and communicating love and despair with his fellow man. It's about human frailty - wrestling the insecure desire for fame and fortune and the quest for a contented heart. Although his stage is typically Australian the story is universal. Frazer works in painting, wood engraving, etching, lithography and bronze. He'd probably dance if he could. His artist books belong in all the major library collections in Australia."

Frazer's art is like a song, it stays in your head and heart long after you've walked away."

He's right.

Stockroom has some of David's wood engravings on its walls. They are striking - made by someone who's priority it is to see the world clearly, for what it is, and without fuss. It's inspiring. And so is it, listening to his point of view and about his experiences.

David Frazer kindly spent some time online with Stockroom.

Stockroom: How many years have you been an artist, and how did you get your start?

David Frazer: I was always drawing as a kid and constantly told I was going to be an artist when I grew up. So I never really thought about doing anything else.

I was also very lucky to have some great art teachers in my high school years. When I was in Year 7, I met an old artist who was losing his eyesight. I went to his studio every weekend one year, and i hung out in his studio and he gave me lessons. I loved that.

I also had one art teacher in high school who inspired me a lot. He invited the whole art class once to come to his studio one Sunday, me and my best mate were the only two who showed up. It blew me away and I knew then that that's the life I wanted.

I did well in art at HSC then went straight in to art school.

I struggled a bit in art school although in retrospect I did enjoy it.

I wasted my time in art school really. I was too young and I thought I was too good to bother with it. Really stupid!

Anyway, I made it through and continued to paint some awful paintings for a while. I had no subject though. I gave it away to pursue my ridiculous dream of making it in showbiz.

After about 8 years of making an idiot of myself I decided to get back into art. I discovered printmaking and really took to it. I liked it's potential for narrative. The best thing though is i then had a subject. Failed ambition etc. Half the battle was won. The great thing to is people loved it and my work sold well. I'd found my niche.

Above, 'Lost, 2008', by David Frazer.

I had my first show in 1996 and have exhibited every year since. I worked at Monash Univeristy, Caulfield, as a part time technician for nearly 10 years but since 2008 I've lived soley off my art.

SR: You are based in Castlemaine.. How does living in Central Victoria influence your work?

DF: It means I don't have to travel so far to find rural images, which is pretty much what I do art about.

SR: How would you describe your work?

DF: Melancholic and beautiful, sad and funny.

SR: Your work inspires some very heartfelt reactions - what do you think it is that people respond to in your work - specially the prints from your wood engravings?

DF: People recognize the yearning for an escape from stress and a desire to be someone more interesting and to be somewhere more exciting.

SR: Your pictures seem very simple - yet have a profound effect, ie "less is more". They are images of things and places and figures that are very familiar and everyday.. How do you go about choosing what images to paint or make? And what attracts you to this subject matter - 'the everyday'?

DF: I've got no imagination, so i have to think of stuff i know or have lived. Mostly it comes from feelings I remember from childhood. I try to simplify it down to the basic point, to a single image, weed out the stuff that detracts from the point - I think?!

It's good to make people notice the everyday stuff they might normally miss. To look at ‘the ordinary’ in a new way.

SR: What do you love about making art - and if you weren't an artist, what do you think you would have wound up doing?

DF: It's good that every day brings something new. If I wasn't making a living out of art I'd probably be a school teacher or more likely in a mental asylum.

SR: Who inspires you?

DF: Music mainly, Tom Waits in particular.

SR: Looking at your CV you mustn't get much sleep! Meaning you seem to be very busy.. How many hours a week do you work (as in make art), and what do you do for fun?!

DF: Well I don't have a proper job. I do have the part time job though of bringing up 2 young boys all by myself for half the week. Life's pretty exhausting especially since buying this house up here, building my dream studio, gardening, cooking and shit. Don't know how much longer i can keep it up. Helps being obsessive… I do most things really quickly.

I was hoping my latest show in Melbourne would do so well I could employ someone to help me but it didn't. I dream about the old days when I used to just bum around wondering what to do with myself. Maybe that's a subject for some more pictures?

For fun I play golf twice a year, drink a few stubbies most nights before dinner, watch tele, listen to music and read books about war and lost at sea stories preferably involving cannibalism.

Above right, 'Another Night On Earth, 2005', by David Frazer.

SR: What's the one piece of advice you received that you've never forgotten?

DF: Go with your strengths

SR: And what do you love the most about being an artist?

DF: Not having to have a proper job.

Visit davidfrazer.com. And see some of David Frazer's wood engravings at Stockroom, 96-98 Piper Street, Kyneton. Ph: (03) 5422 3215.

Words: Megan Spencer. Thanks to David Frazer for the interview.