Time and tide wait for no man, and in Neil Frazer’s show of the same name, his seascapes possess a barely contained energy that surges across the canvas in waves of textured paint. It is Frazer’s ability to depict a recognisable ‘reality’ while at the same time making the viewer intensely aware of the vivid painterliness of his works that makes them so remarkable.
Frazer uses a thick impasto technique and applies paint using ‘rags, brushes and his own hands’ with the end result that the gestures of the artist become one and the same as rush of the water and the striations of the cliffs he depicts. The effect is one of a world shaped by unfriendly forces of nature where even mutable reflections appear carved out of the water.
Wave Length II is dominated by a sloping promontory, and the artist has used both the texture of the paint and subtle tone-on-tone hues to suggest wind-lashed foliage and eroded crags. Below the white-capped waves is an echo of the coastline, warped by water and perspective. Frazer leaves it to the viewer to work out the lay of the land and it is not clear where water stops and land begins. The feeling of being caught ‘between worlds’ evokes a sense of unease and disquiet, emphasised further by the artist’s use of empty space.
The sky becomes a void in these paintings; flat and white, its featureless absence throws into strong relief the dominant presence of rock, sand and sea. The tension Frazer captures between this absence/presence enhances the powerful composition of the works, necessary when he uses his medium in an almost sculptural manner. The tactile paint surfaces advance from the two-dimensional canvas, creating actual - not imagined - shadows that emphasise further the physicality of the subject matter.
Few artists manage successful exhibiting careers on both sides of the Tasman, but the sell-out success of his August show ‘Fracture’ in Sydney bears witness to Neil Frazer’s significant and ongoing achievements in both Australia and New Zealand. In Time and Tide he portrays in swirls and eddies of paint a world ruled by the vagaries of nature. Arresting and compelling, we look on and wonder at the art of both the environment and the artist.