Magic happens when two celebrated artists join forces in a visual storytelling exhibition that centres around the Grimm brothers tales. Picnicking With the Wolves opens tomorrow (Friday 25 Jan) at East Gippsland Art Gallery. Klara Jones and Sue Fraser are both masterfully skilled artists who will be enthralling viewers with their combined work in this much anticipated exhibition.
I have previously had the honour of interviewing Klara Jones as she was preparing for Picnicking With the Wolves; today I am delighted to share an interview with her fellow exhibitor, the exquisitely talented Sue Fraser.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Sue Fraser and I’m a printmaker.
Why do you do what you do?
I print because I really enjoy the entire process. Even after 25 years of printmaking I still find the process labour intensive, frustrating and rewarding.
How do you work?
In the house I do what has to be done to keep the ‘home fires burning’, and then go out to the studio. Of course there are lots of distractions but I like to spend as many hours as I can in the studio each day. I like routine.
What’s your background?
Teacher, wife, missionary (Vanuatu, 53 years ago), mother, brick layer (mud brick), student again in my 50’s, artist.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
What role does the artist have in society?
Almost everything we use (or possess) begins with a line, a drawing. Clothes, cooking utensils, furniture, cars, buildings etc. Society is made up of artists in many disguises, all making life either easier or more challenging for us!
What has been a seminal experience?
Life on the Pacific Islands before the time of holiday resorts and tourist shops.
Explain what you do?
I love relief printing. I mainly work with lino, usually print with black, sometimes hand colour. I draw onto the plate with white charcoal pencil, This allows me to rub out easily, and start all over again – stops me becoming too precious about the drawing. I write down ideas about things I’ve heard or seen, and they provide the basis for most of my images, very rarely do I copy from a sketchbook.
How has your practice changed over time?
My work hasn’t changed dramatically. I’m better at using positive and negative lines now and work on a larger scale.
What work do you most identify with?
Architecture, as the moment I step into a building, of any type, it has an affect. I love art of all kinds but architecture – domestic, religious, commercial, or educational has the power to impress me, whether good or bad, always. We connect with buildings , we walk into them, they surround us, they exude a personality by just being.
What work do you most enjoy doing?
What themes do you pursue?
The strength, beauty and frailty, cruelty – the oddness that is us!
What’s your favourite artwork?
There are so many but Johannes Vermeer’s little painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, came immediately to mind when I read this question. But so did the wonderful small paintings of Alfred Wallis, and the fabulous work of Rover Thomas.
Describe a real life situation that inspired you?
Our son, who at the age of 17 decided he wanted to be an artist. He has lived in Barcelona for many years now and lives from his art. He hasn’t made a fortune but has shown us that a simple lifestyle, doing what you love to do, is precious beyond words.
Why not art?
What is an artistic outlook on life?
An artistic outlook on life is keeping eyes and minds open to both the beauty and the destruction of the world around us. It is also the willingness to make something – draw, paint, garden, build.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
The first time my little etching was selected by the Print Prize in Western Australia when I was still an undergrad student just ‘blew me away’, having a print in all of the Silk Cut exhibitions, being asked to be part of curated shows by artists I’d never met, having a work bought by the Gippsland Art Gallery in Sale VIC. And whenever people buy a print I am really ‘chuffed’.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
No, not really. There are many artists in the area, and lots of people interested in art. And I like working in solitude.
What do you dislike about the art world?
The art world doesn’t annoy me, but I live in a very small part of it. I’m sure snobbishness, one upmanship etc exist but I don’t really come across it, or am too ‘thick’ to notice it. I think the art world in my ‘neck of the woods’ is fabulous. It’s exciting that so many people can connect with art – from the mum who paints at the kitchen table, to the colourful ‘arty’ students decked out in their fabulous clothing, to the oldies like me who work away in their studios, and the brilliant artists who just love ‘having a go’ and do just that!
What do dislike about your work?
Often the drawing.
What do you like about your work?
When the drawing works. When I manage to convey the message/idea I aimed to convey.
Should art be funded?
What role does arts funding have?
Funding is vital as it enriches and educates the community. Love or hate an art piece it still has the power to challenge us, maybe inspire us, educate, thrill (or horrify) us. It helps to create a well rounded community and to realise the world is seen differently by all of us.
What research do you do?
Visit galleries, talk to other artists, read and look, look, look. So much beautiful, horrifying, diverse art to be found in every country.
What is your dream project?
I don’t have a dream project…..except to have an exhibition of life sized linos.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared with?
Paula Rego, Barbara Hanrahan, Kathe Kollwitz
Favourite or most inspirational place.
Another difficult question with no one place in first place. The Alhambra, in Granada, Spain, the Australian deserts and its forests, all have equal billing.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A lecturer once told me, when I was feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the mostly much younger students at uni who all seemed to draw beautifully, to just “be truthful to the way you draw, and one day people will say ‘Sue Fraser drew that”. That has turned out to be true….
Professionally, what’s your goal?
To keep working, and to stretch my boundaries.
What wouldn’t you do without?
Notebook and pencil.
It has been an honour and delight to interview Sue Fraser and Klara Jones. Here’s wishing them both a most wonderful and successful exhibition. Picnicking With the Wolves, hosted by East Gippsland Art Gallery, 2 Nicholson Street, Bairnsdale, Victoria, 3875.