Karina Fraser is an artist - curator centring her practice on painterly study of the neurological experience of synaesthesia, the cross wiring of senses, and how it connects and disconnects physical and psychological boundaries. Her abstract work is informed by the paradox of the organic function of the brain, the human constructs of creativity and communication and the natural world around us. Experiencing sound - colour and grapheme - colour synaesthesia herself, Fraser seeks to convey the consistent and involuntary light show that punctuates daily life using brightly coloured layers; worked together, washed over, merged and torn apart to elevate otherwise unremarkable passing moments. The colour palette is provided by music, the form and texture by nature.
Evolving from a fascination for autobiographical memories linked to music and the synesthetic response to the sounds, Fraser developed her previously introspective approach by introducing a soothing influence from the natural environment to release the process, almost as therapy, from sketchbook to canvas to wall and even shed. Her work expresses a free, more joyful, buoyant sentiment. When did you start making art and how has it influenced your life? I started making pictures way before I can even remember making them, mostly of cats. Then when I was about 5 years old, my headteacher asked me to make a poster for the school’s summer fayre. When she gave me a lolly for my work I decided then and there that if I got nice stuff for doing fun stuff, that’s what I was going to do forever. Roll on 30 years and I’ve done just that, although these days I prefer cash or whisky to lollies. The path I followed obviously influenced every aspect of my life to date – from studying at Camberwell UAL art college, to choosing particular arts-based work to support my time painting, and my entire outlook on life… I didn’t chose to be an artist, rather it chose me. It’s a way of seeing the world rather than just an occupation. How do you go about making art? What’s your process? I paint a lot. I sit in the studio, playing records and just paint. It’s quite organic. From those initial ‘sketches’ of synaesthesia, larger works evolve when a song evokes a memory, a snapshot of time, and they match perfectly. Over the past couple of years I have forced myself to reject any process as a way of freeing up the artwork. I had a breakdown. I’d been working far too hard, far too long, on very little sleep. I was incredibly stressed and so riddled with anxiety that I often couldn’t leave the house. The anxiety was tied into the process I then used to produce my artwork, I had built up strict rules to follow which became my undoing. I had a large exhibition to work for and had spent the year painting snapshots of my own past, but in hindsight they were all moments of severe trauma. I guess you could call it therapy but it broke me. It’s taken two years of letting go, stopping and resetting to get to this point now. I’m happier, in fact I think I’m the happiest, most settled that I’ve ever been and I think that’s reflected in the painting. Who are your influences or inspirations? Gerhard Richter has been my lifelong go to for inspiration. I can dive into his squeegeed paintings for hours. I love the way that they have so much history as each layer is built up then torn back through. There are so many stories in each one. I love colour. I like layers, joy, stories. I lose hours on Instagram searching out artists. I’m also inspired by artists from our area who get out there and really make it work. Kev Munday and Kazland create incredible work, are lovely people and have really made the outside world excited about their work. If I didn’t love them so much I’d be jealous. What can we expect from this exhibition? A. Lot. Of. Colour. Both Laura Forbes and Eleanor Harvey create stunningly colourful artwork in their own right. My part of the exhibition focuses on the synaesthetic experience I have whilst listening to certain pieces of music, this is centred on a live music and art show I will be doing with the experimental genius that are Parachute for Gordo and Slow Clinic. I hate live painting as I hate to be on display, but I figure if I wear a big enough hat I can fade into the background and just get on trying to capture the lightshow that’s going off in my head (I’ve never had a need to do drugs). Failing that, I’ll just create a bloody big mess. It could all be genius or a total car crash, but I guess that’s the fun of it. Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming Crowdfunded trip to Annapurna, and how people can help out? As I mentioned before, I have an anxiety disorder that intrudes on daily life. I’ve learnt methods to live with it and have gradually been pushing my boundaries. Pushing them as far as Nepal for an entire month, at dizzying heights (literally) away from everything that keeps me safe? I could be crazy. But it will certainly be life changing. Crowdfunding, offering rewards of artwork I produce on the trip and attempting to raise awareness of arts provision within our community – and hopefully some cash for Aldershot’s West End Centre and the Forward 4 Wiz Trust - gives me focus and the knowledge that so many people are behind me. I’m truly humbled by all the support, we’re taking this journey together. I urge everyone to get involved via www.crowdfunder.co.uk/karina-fraser or pop along to my exhibition at the West End Centre before the end of Feb and buy some of my artwork. All the cash goes into the Annapurna pot and will go directly to encourage arts participation and develop resources locally. It will also make me smile every step of the 100+ mile trek.