One the things I’ve been trying to do over the past few months is to consider how to move my practice forward once I complete the BA degree. Study and academia has been my life for the past three years and although learning is an ongoing process, this particular chapter in that process comes to an end in a matter of months – with this in mind I need to ensure that I don’t suddenly come to a halt once I graduate, although truth be told a nice long holiday would be most welcome!
One of the areas I am keen to explore to ensure that I don’t just stand still, is by engaging in artistic collaborations – whereby I can not only find encouragement and support in moving my practice forward, but also learn new skills, forge new and lasting working partnerships and of course make new and varied works. My first experience of such a collaboration came about with two of my cohorts Cherry Harrison and Tobias Christian during the second year of the BA during the International Markets & Contexts module, where we conceived a framework for an international photography festival as well as a short body of work which complimented the festivals theme. The overall experience was very rewarding with ideas and work being shaped by our individual input as well as working as part a group – the support we each gave and received was something I’ve been keen to pursue since. However, it’s not been an easy task seeking out suitable or appropriate collaborations, especially as I am quite introverted and shy – networking and such activities are not something I find easy and definitely not something I can force, it’s not conducive to the natural evolution of any new friendship or prospective working collaboration. Instead I’ve taken a path that suits my approach, that of fostering new personal friendships with people I feel I have something in common with (both personally and professionally) and exploring the possibility of collaborating from there.
The first of these tentative steps towards a path that involves collaborative work at its core, came about through a friendship I made when I was introduced to a Canadian painter and multi-media artist Fraser Radford. We’ve quickly established a friendship despite the fact we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean and one of the things that has come out of this friendship is a mutual admiration of each others work and a desire to work together on a project when time and funds permit.
Canadian Artist Fraser Radford (www.fraserradford.com)
The means of working together have yet to be discussed, as is the nature of the project partly due to my own commitments with finishing my studies and Fraser’s own commitments too. Although we have no firm details on what this project will entail or to how it will be communicated, It would however be fair to say that it will play to both our individual strengths as practitioners and involve new approaches for both of us, certainly nothing is being ruled out at this stage – additionally, whether we decide to work either here in the UK or in Canada or try a remote working set-up is yet to be determined. Funding will play a large part in deciding the scope and means of the collaboration, as such we’re both currently looking at options in that regard. The Artists’ International Development Fund – a programme that offers early stage development opportunities for individual artists based in England to spend time building links with creators and cultural organisations in another country, and is definitely something I’m looking at and Fraser in investigating funding options re international projects over there as well.
So why a collaboration with Fraser? Well firstly he’s a lovely chap – very open and friendly and more importantly there’s a rapport, something I find hard to find with many people. Secondly, his work, which he is totally passionate about and resonates on a level I can totally empathise with – there are aspects in his work which feel very personal and reflective/reflexive, something I can totally relate to in my own work; a collaboration therefore seems like a good idea. To elaborate a little further on Fraser and his work I suggested to him that an informal interview specifically for this post and module would help give an overview on his work and a little insight into his practice and personality and shed a little light on why our prospective collaboration would be a good idea. Thankfully he agreed, and laid out below is the transcript of that interview with a few pieces of his amazing work…
Interview with Fraser Radford – Canadian artist and creative
Ghost (2013) – Fraser Radford
Thank you for taking some time to answer some of my questions. Specifically I’d like to gain an insight to your path to becoming an artist and your work. I’m somewhat late to this creative journey myself and I’m still finding my voice but I’m fascinated to hear from an artist who has clearly found his.
Warren: Could I begin by asking you briefly about yourself, your background and your journey to becoming a working artist.
Fraser: I was born and raised in Brockville, Ontario, a small city with around 23,000 people. My educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts – Honours in Art History with a Minor in Religious Studies from Queen’s University (graduated in 2009). I also have a diploma in Visual and Creative Arts – Fine Arts from St. Lawrence College in Brockville (2014), as well as a post-graduate certificate in Studio Process Advancement (sort of like a mini-MFA program) from the Haliburton School of the Arts (also completed in 2014). I always had fun in my art classes in high school, especially in Grade 12 (Year 12 in Britain, I’m assuming), where I had the free range to do what I wanted but was limited to materials the professor had set. It was a great and fun challenge. For some reason, I don’t really remember engaging with art that much in my first year of University but in my second year, I picked up a brush and started going at it again. It became a bit of a stress reliever when I was writing essays…copious amounts of essays and studying for slide tests. During my final year at Queen’s, I decided to pick up art full-time and just run with it. Up to now, I have moved several times, worked menial jobs just to get by, but have also struggled to find work (as you may know, having an arts-related degree doesn’t bode well for the workplace). Last year, things started to pick up for me with clients beginning to purchase my work and having my work being shown in different venues in North America, as well as being published on websites and magazines. 2015 is looking to be even bigger! I hope that’s brief enough…
Film Still #20 – Fraser Radford
Warren: Tell me a little about your practice – inspiration, ways of working etc. and your work.
Fraser: My practice has changed a lot over time but my current focus, with my painting anyway, is to work without brushes and use unconventional tools like rulers, mops, knives, sticks, drywall scrapers, as well as my body. I enjoy getting up close and personal with the work. I will usually take a piece of canvas, lay it on the floor, wreak havoc, let it dry then stretch it after I am satisfied with the result. Gerhard Richter has been a huge inspiration for me, along with Jean-Paul Riopelle, Helen Frankenthaler, Friedel Dzubas, Joseph Drapell, as well as a few artists involved with the Japanese avant-garde group Gutai, mainly Shozo Shimamoto and Kazuo Shiraga.
Ceremony (2013) Mixed Media – Fraser Radford
Warren: Your work spans multiple disciplines – paint, film, photography, sculpture etc., but do you prefer one over another?
Fraser: To be honest, I don’t think I really have a preference. They are all super fun to work in. I mean, I have more ideas in my head about potential paintings but I am really wanting to try my hand at experimental film.
Warren: As an accomplished artist what would you say are the biggest problems with getting a project off the ground and how have you overcome this?
Fraser: I would say that my biggest problems would be finding space to work, as I work mostly flat on the ground, as well as having the money to purchase materials. For space, I am usually restricted to the floor in my bedroom so my canvases are not as large as I’d like them to be but they still look good. When I was in Haliburton, I was able to commandeer a shed to work on one of my largest canvases yet. Unfortunately, I still need to finish it, hah.
#66 (2014) oil on canvas, 40 x 40 – Fraser Radford
Warren: Now that you’ve a few exhibitions and publications under your belt what would you say are the biggest hurdles in getting your work recognised and out there? Furthermore, can you offer any advice on how you overcome these?
Fraser: The biggest hurdle is trying to get your name out there. There are so many artists applying to be in the same galleries, group shows, etc, as you, that work has to be top-notch. You cannot expect a gallery to come to you asking to show your work or a collector wanting to purchase some work of yours. You have to break out of your shell and pursue galleries which have a roster of artists that relate to your own portfolio. You should also search the internet for calls for submissions but BEWARE; there are A LOT of scams out there. Do your research! You should also attend exhibition openings so you can introduce yourself to people, as well as the gallery owner. Make small talk, have some food and wine. Make sure you have business cards with you.
Senbazuru (for Sadako), 2014, mixed media installation
Fraser and the Japanese embassador at the Japanese Embassy in Ottawa. Senbazuru (for Sadako), 2014, 48 x 72 x 90 inches, mixed media installation was exhibited at the embassy as part of a solo exhibition.
Warren: As an artist if you are bidding for a commission, what are the expectations of the commissioners and how do you meet those expectations?
Fraser: Commissions can be tricky because a lot of the time, clients expect you to work on these grand works…for free or next to nothing. They don’t realise that an artist has bills to pay, food to put on his or her own table, trying to make a living for themselves, etc. I’ve had to turn down multiple offers for those reasons above. The few commissions I have done however, the client and myself worked together to figure out the budget, what I could create within that budget, as well as added shipping and postage onto the budget. I keep in touch with the client about updates I’ve made with the piece and send them photos of the progress. Once the piece is finished and the client is satisfied, we work out shipping/delivery and it is a done deal!
Warren: When thinking about your work, what is your preferred way to have it exhibited and how do you go about this? Have there been times where you’ve sacrificed your vision just to get it out there?
Fraser: It depends on which work I am showing. With my sculptural work, I prefer there to be plenty of space around the piece so viewers can walk around and inspect the work up close.
Warren: Creating a body of work from idea to creation is very gratifying and rewarding personally, but it can also be costly to fund. How have you navigated this issue in the past and now that you are an established artist. Has it got easier, if so, how?
Fraser: I’m always on the look out for sales at art supply stores, as well as purchase materials from the local hardware shop. It definitely has not become easy…yet. I am looking at applying for government grants through the Canada Council for the Arts, as well as the Ontario Arts Council so I can get numerous pieces framed, as well as purchase materials for upcoming projects I have in my head.
Warren: What would you say is your favourite project and why?
Fraser: I think one of my favourite pieces so far is a mixed media piece titled Light Bulb Crash (for Shozo) (pictured below). It is a 48 inch tall by 72 inch wide canvas and combines materials like oil paint, turpentine, raw linseed oil, and sand. It was definitely the most fun (and messy) piece to create. I filled up old light bulbs with the different media then tossed, dropped, and threw at high-speed, at the canvas, resulting in different splatter effects. It was also very satisfying to create something like this, as a memorial piece to Shozo. I hope to be able to show it in Japan one day.
Light Bulb Crash (For Shozo) 48×72 mixed media – Fraser Radford
Warren: There seems to be a strong element of collaborative work and exhibiting in your portfolio. Is this something you enjoy and what are your expectations for any such collaboration?
Fraser: I do love collaborating with people as long as they are willing to put in as much work as I am and not just expect me to do everything, then stamp their name on the work at the end. That does not make me happy. I’d love to be able to have more collaborative or two-person exhibitions with artists.
Warren: Galleries and Museums are always looking for artists and practitioners but they are also constantly approached as well. How do you differentiate yourself from ‘the crowd’ and how important is to select the right gallery for your work?
Fraser: Like I said earlier, do your research. Start with local galleries and see what their artist roster is like. If their work matches or is similar to your portfolio, send an e-mail to the gallery introducing yourself along with a small sample of your work, CV, artist statement, link to your website. Also ask if you could set up an appointment with them so you can meet and talk about your work. Attend show openings at a gallery you’re interested in showing at (be reasonable, of course…no one can show at the Tate for the first show ever) and introduce yourself to the gallery staff. It has become very unpopular to just walk in with your portfolio. Galleries are not impressed by that anymore.
Haliburton (2014) – Fraser Radford
Warren: What’s next for Fraser Radford?
Fraser: I’m going to keep applying for exhibitions, grants, residencies and working on new pieces. I’m also going to be displaying my barbed wire sculpture Ceremony (pictured below) in the Sculpture Garden at Oeno Gallery in Bloomfield, Ontario in May. I have also been asked to give a short talk at the Haliburton School of the Arts in the Spring/Summer. I am very excited about that. I have a few ideas for potential series’ brewing in my head so hopefully I’ll be working on those over the Spring and Summer. Keep your eyes peeled. I’m also hoping to be able to exhibit some works in the U.S. and Europe this year. I also hope to be able to travel a little bit more, for artistic research, of course.
Warren: Finally, any advice for someone not keen on following a commercial photography career but rather an artist who uses photography as his medium? I’m still trying to find my voice artistically and I’m still timid about promoting and putting my work out there. Any advice in this regard in achieving this is most welcome.
Fraser: Hmm, I’d refer back to the questions earlier on about approaching galleries. The biggest thing to do is get out of your comfort zone and get familiar with the gallery folk in your community. It really does help.
#48 (2013) acrylic on canvas – Fraser Radford
Warren: Finally, I know we haven’t gone into detail about a future collaboration but I have some early ideas and I’m really looking for working with an artist of your caliber and accomplishment. I’m especially excited as this will also be a cross-discipline project and international in nature and I’m hoping to gain a lot from this. How do you view this and is this kind of collaboration something you’ve done before?
Fraser: I’m very excited to be collaborating with you, Warren. You are a very talented photographer and I think we could make some intriguing work together. I’m excited to hear about your ideas. This will be the first time I have participated in a cross-continental collaboration. I’d also like to thank you for asking me to participate in this interview. It was fun.
Fraser at the Guggenheim Museum, New York
So the current plan is to start making firm plans once I’ve graduated in July, from there we’ll see how things shape up, but I’m really looking forward of the opportunity of working with such a talented and creative artist as Fraser, roll on July!
– If you like any of the work you’ve seen here, then please check out Fraser’s website at www.fraserradford.com