Lee Grant – Photography Blog

David Frazer: dreams of a rural Utopia

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I caught the tail end of a lovely documentary last night on the ABC about the Australian artist David Frazer. I had not heard of him before but his work was astounding to say the least and really made an impression. He works in a variety of different print media such as wood engraving, lithography, etching, and lino-cutting. Frazer meticulously depicts isolation and rural decline in his print work and the detail in his work is beautiful. His works are small (refreshing in the ‘big-is-best’ mentality currently engulfing the art world) and requires the viewer to look closely. Frazer’s love and attention of his subject matter is imbued in the work and it is the incredible detail that really caught my eye. Thinking about his expression of various Australian characters, I realised that there is a specificity in his interpretation of being Australian. For me personally, it resonates, because it speaks of my own childhood experiences in a small Australian country town. There is a nostalgia there and a sense of loss too, of something or someplace that has been, but is no more or at the very least, that we are in the process of losing (alluding perhaps to Trent Parke‘s assertion that Australia has lost it’s innocence – though I might argue that there is nothing innocent about Australian history, but that is another argument for another post!).


“Another night on earth”. Wood engraving (12.5 x 20cm) by David Frazer

“Images of abandonment, alienation and longing are invested with ambiguity, optimism and wry humour. Typical rural objects and funny, sad characters are detailed as in a John Steinbeck novel; dreams of a rural utopia faded through the hardships of isolation and weather. To quote Martin Flanagan; “…perhaps the clue to David Frazer’s art is the figure that occasionally appears on the roofs of his houses, arms spread, imitating flight, wanting to leave a landscape he is nonetheless planted in…”.”

Funny, because this is often how I have felt as an Australian. So much a part of it but nevertheless an alien in my own country. I wonder then, if this a culmination of our history and the violent displacement of both white and black cultures (and more recently of Asian, Middle Eastern and African cultures). It seems to me that we are struggling to keep up, defining ourselves on the fly. Yet, there is something there that belongs to us all. I don’t have the words to express it really, it’s simply a feeling…. one of spiritual belonging perhaps?

I suppose, looking at Frazer’s art, I see similar themes in my own work, particularly in my ongoing B&W series of Australia currently titled Where the Heart Is. There is a nostalgic focus on the rural landscape, on the wilderness and the characters that inhabit those spaces. And it is largely this – and the tenderness of his expression – that speaks to me about Frazer’s work. I’m delighted that I now know of this wonderful artist.


Dream Away by David Frazer (6 x 9 cms)



Downward Mobility II by David Frazer (7.5 x 10 cms)

Cherryvan from the ‘Australia’ series.



Written by Lee Grant

August 29, 2007 at 10:04 am

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