The otherworldly paintings of Leah Fraser form an ocular poetry. Each work is a lyrical stanza narrating the mysteries of existence across history and mythology. Moving through liminal realms, ethereal beings coalesce with a dense bounty of flora and fauna in silent symbiosis. Fraser calls upon the symbologies of various cultures to excavate and understand the eternal bond with nature that crowns humanity’s most basic instincts and guides us towards elusive ontological truths.
Fraser’s new collection, ‘In the beginning there were stars’, explores the creative forces of time, memory and movement in hatching human experience. The artist reflects, ‘The dust of the universe that swirled together everything around us – the Cosmic Egg of the Brahmins, the Big Bang, God: whatever it is that describes the stored energy of creation – made us. This material has been dissolving and reforming again and again, to make our bodies in the present time, and will shift again to become our future selves.’
Painterly vignettes fusing nature and culture are filtered through multiple perspectives, revealing a simultaneity of existence that is both chaotic and rhythmic. Ghostly horses gallop into and out of memory while bodies writhe amongst wildflowers, viewed from above as if by the stars or a bird circling overhead. Trees grow in all directions and a tiger prowls through the landscape – an ode to William Blake. Laced throughout these elaborate vignettes are birds of all species, symbolic messengers crossing the thresholds of spirituality and corporeality. Through these multi-dimensional reconfigurations of reality, the paintings tap into an elusive pre-cognitive ‘truth’ preceding order and rationality. Fraser constructs a constellation of shifting sensory perceptions – eyes gaze in triplicate, bodies multiply and shift, limbs shimmer with the night sky, auras dance and hover. Time moves so slowly and yet so fast, caught in this mass of cosmic energy.
The works in this series visualise the profound power of sensory awareness in defining our perception of ‘now’. Pondering the mutualism between physical sensation and our understanding of experience, Fraser questions, ‘when the sensation leaves us, what remains?’ She continues, ‘The physical body stores pain as well as joy and love – memory on a cellular level – and we carry those things in this ‘now’ body. The journey we go through to understand self, in the past; who that makes us, in the present; and who we can be, in the future’. The artist sketches this multiplicity of selves as embodied shadows fanning out from central beings; a figural concertina across time and space. Timeless beings are stroked, prodded or tugged by bodiless hands: the pull of past lives, or of many possible futures.
By anthropomorphising narratives around creation, Fraser creates her own mythological pantheon that blends the poetry of personal experience with historical and spiritual consciousness. Her characters are everything and nothing, existing in ‘mythical time’ that has no beginning or end.
After completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Fraser was granted an Art Production Residency in Arquetopia, Puebla Mexico (2012) and has regularly exhibited throughout Australia in solo and group shows. The artist has also been a finalist in a number of awards, including the Blake Prize for Religious Art (2014 & 2009), the Moreton Bay Art Prize (2016) and the Portia Geach Memorial Award (2017).