Neil Frazer has received numerous awards, substantial critical attention and acclaim, and is widely acknowledged as one of the leading painters of his generation in both New Zealand and Australia.
This exhibition Selected Works 1996-2007 reveals that the pictorial journey of Neil Frazer is unique, on-going, and completely opposite to the norm. Although the primary painterly concern in his work has been that of expressionistic abstraction (paint used both as a descriptor and subject) there has been a mix of allusion, illusion and literalness always in evidence. This plurality of dialogue and mode has consistently referenced the real world, and has necessarily varied from description and implication to reductive essences.
Frazer has always used paint in a sculptural way (Objectifier, 2000) and his mastery of spatial illusion (Dark Entry, 1995) and material literalness (Gravity W, 2000) is undeniable. Equally obvious is that the great continuum of his work is how he uses paint. The compelling physicality of Maximum E (2005) is so successful and accurate that it is as if he has hewn it directly from the Southern Alps, capturing and retaining its utter monumentality, and absolute coldness.
As Frazer has linked abstraction and the pictorial traditions of landscape painting, he has come up with new ways of working (such as the negative space of the silhouette or partial mirror image) where he is “creating the allusion of deep recessive space and contrasting it against the use of actual three-dimensional paint” using “the real to create the imaginary.” (1) This fusion of fact and memory, depth and volume is now explicitly of someplace and something, no longer a generality.
Acutely aware of the emotional language of colour, Neil Frazer has also used the rhythms of surface texture and pattern as active (sensory) components. In works such as Last of the Golden (2004) and Evolution (2002) the narrative is that of viewing an event as it happens front-on. The mysteries of the moment, the atmospheres established are those of invented micro-worlds and in Watershed (1996) he uses the contrast of surface contradiction to bring us into both the primordial ooze of a pond and to the softest down of feather.
The journey of Neil Frazer’s work from impasto abstraction to landscape representation has been somewhat circular in nature for he has retained the essential characteristics of his style and concerns through this evolving process. He has taken the often clichéd, common subject of the romantic sublime landscape and completely reinvigorated it (Ice Breaker, 2005) by daring to reinvestigate its relevance and reality with abstract expressionist techniques, methods and style. In doing this, he is establishing avenues in the perception and comprehension of it which are new, cogently argued and achieve the ultimate testimony of being evocative, compelling and undeniably correct.
1. Neil Frazer, Artist statement, 2005.