Dean Smith talks to David Frazer

Artist to Artist is a series of conversations between participating artists about their work and life as an artist in the Mount Alexander region.

Dean Smith talks to David Frazer

Dean Smith, ceramist talks with David Frazer, printmaker about his background, his time in China and his personal connection to the arts.

DEAN SMITH – Where did you grow up? How did it shape you into becoming an artist?

DAVID FRAZER – I grew up in my primary school years in a little country Victorian town called Murtoa, which is wheat country in the Wimmera. It had a big impact on me and sort of became the setting for my art. I loved the melancholy of the flat landscape. I used to sit on the roof of our house a lot or up a tree and dream of flying away to somewhere more exciting (and to be someone more exciting).

DS – Did you chose your art subject/muse or did it choose you?

DF – I chose it. It took me a while to find my subject. I wasn’t compelled to make art but I did want to communicate something somehow to people. I tried music and show biz but that didn’t work so I got back into art. It was a career choice really. My attempts at show biz though had given me a subject. I struck upon the narrative of yearning for love and success and of failed ambition. I really wanted to write songs so I looked at art in that way. Luckily I had by then discovered printmaking, which was a medium much better suited to narrative and story telling.

DS – Your paintings often depict old houses, caravans or streetscapes, rendered very neatly and precisely, what is it that attracts you to this subject?

DF – I like making art of crappy s***, stuff that’s modest and landscapes that aren’t at all picturesque. Painting has always been a challenge for me. If I did them with figures doing stuff it always looked a bit twee or illustrative… so, I’d leave that to the prints and try to just paint the scenery, or setting for the actors in my prints.

DS – You have done residencies in China in 2010 and 2013, could you tell us little about those?

DF – China has been great for me. There’s no money it, but I do get the odd free trip to some biennial and being treated like a rock star is kind of fun. The residencies are a good excuse to be somewhere exotic and too work undistracted by normal life. It all started when I nervously sent off an etching to some biennial after I got a strange invitation via email. Thinking I may never see that work again I got a couple of months later another email saying I had won. I went over for the presentations and it ended up being the most bizarre amazing week of my life. They really know how to turn on a big production.

Anyway, they seem to be under the assumption that I’m a world famous artist, ha ha, but I’m happy to go along with that. The real thrill is though that they do really appreciate detail and skill and I feel very proud that they consider me in their league.

DS – Which artists/art are you into, is there any type of art you really dislike?

DF – I hate most art. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word – I love art, but there’s not a lot that really overly interests me. Music inspires me more than art probably. I like printmakers that utilize narrative. A lot of pretentious contemporary art really s***s me, especially when it is actually really banal and boring. Some of it is alright though, I suppose. I went to Mona recently and I thought it was awesome. The work was so well presented though, which probably helped.

DS – What is art for you, what does it do for you?

DF – Art is my medium or vehicle for communicating with my fellow man. It gives me a reason to exist and it beats a proper job. I also like the connection it gives me with artists of the past.

DS – What’s in store for 2014?

DF – I’m running some printmaking workshops in Adelaide and Mount Gambier. I’m participating in Supergraph which is a graphics fair in February at the Royal Exhibition building. I have shows coming up in Canberra in May and Melbourne in July, and I’m doing a hand-made artist book with the singer songwriter Paul Kelly.

David Frazer is an internationally renowned artist who specialises in wood engravings, linocuts, lithography, etchings and painting. He has held over 40 solo shows in Australia, London and China. In 2007 the ABC broadcast a documentary on Frazer and his work as part of the “artist at work” series.

Dean Smith is an Australian ceramic artist and potter creating contemporary, highly refined wheelthrown vessels from stoneware and porcelain clay.