Leah Fraser began working on the pieces for this show when she was pregnant earlier in 2016. Contemplating the new life inside her prompted her to also meditate on the irrevocable link between birth and death. ‘It also made me think about transformation’ she recalls, ‘because birth and death are transformations of a kind – I was transforming into this vessel for new life and eventually into a mother.’
The works in this collection are inspired by creation myths, gods and goddesses associated with that role of originating life and the universe. ‘I liked that ancient mythologies tended to use a natural symbolic language’ says Fraser. Timeless, otherworldly beings donning ancient artefacts and tribal instruments coalesce with a colourful bounty of flora and fauna in silent communion. In these faraway realms, a huntress with starry night skin emerges from a floral bed while a furry Wildman cradles his leopard amongst a tapestry of bluebirds. Meanwhile, ghostly ancestors swim through the sky and ancient Gods linger in magical pools, reminding us of the mysterious forces that elude our cognitive grasp. Laced throughout these elaborate vignettes are birds of all species, which can be read as symbolic messengers between the worlds of spirituality and corporeality, magic and mundanity.
Painted with tender delicacy and true affiliation, Fraser’s works render narratives that weave together lunar and solar cycles, seasons, growth cycles, and human cycles. ‘We are similar in our process and habits to nature,’ explains the artist, ‘so it makes sense to anthropomorphise these ideas’. Using these combined symbols and retelling parts of ancient stories, Fraser ultimately creates her own sort of mythological pantheon, exploring reincarnation, the birth of the universe, travel to the underworld, anthropomorphism and metamorphosis.