The window is something of a gift to the landscape artist. It’s like having a living frame on the wall, with a single view that subtly changes every minute of the day.
Colin Fraser appreciates this gift more than most. All artists love light, but Colin has built a 40 year career on his ability to replicate the magical effect of the sun on a landscape. Often, he captures this by observing the nuance of light through a window.
He says: “We are drawn to windows like magnets. They give us natural light and connect us with the outside world. They anchor a view in space, light and time.”
The end result of Colin’s absolute dedication is painting that truly shimmers. This is due, in large part, to his choice of medium: egg tempera. Here, powdered pigment is mixed with egg yolk and water, and applied little by little, layer by layer. It’s a very special skill, created during the Renaissance, but less common now.
Egg tempera is incredibly time-consuming, but the reward is a luminescence quite unlike anything that can be achieved by conventional oils. Colin is regarded as one of the world’s masters of the medium.
He should be, after a lifetime of study. Colin was born in 1956 and studied art in Brighton before teaching for several years on the south coast. His first show was in 1979, but the second wasn’t until 1990. However, success quickly followed.
Colin has exhibited all over the world. His work is found in numerous private and corporate collections throughout North America, Europe and Asia. And he is one the Catto Gallery’s most enduring artists. In fact, we sold our first Colin Fraser 25 years ago.
In this new show, ‘window’ works such as Glimpse and Of the Land demonstrate Colin’s radiant egg tempera technique with breathtaking impact. Colin calls these paintings his ‘borrowed landscapes’.
They’re very personal works. Many were painted in Sweden, where Glasgow-born Colin now lives. Others go back to childhood haunts in Cornwall. Then there's Rooms End, which centres on one particular window from his parent’s house in the Forest of Dean that he has painted many times before.
He says: “I’m fascinated with this subject, so it has come to mean something quite special to me. I simply like spending time there. That’s why each new piece, in a way, builds on its predecessors.”
Colin’s many fans will be delighted to see these wonderful window paintings up close. The same goes for his Arrested Time series – a collection of still-lives that showcase Colin’s gift for composition. These meticulous works depict fruit, flowers and ceramics in an inky black setting.
Colin has spoken many times about how the act of painting seems to halt time. And in the Arrested Time series, he wanted to express this idea. “When I’m actually painting, it’s almost meditative,” he says. “It’s as if time ceases to exist. Indeed, this is something I try to communicate in the work itself. I want what is portrayed to be like a capsule of arrested time.”
But the new show also sees the artist tread fresh ground. The Night Walks series explores the effect of man-made rather than natural light. These twilight cityscapes all depict Toronto, which Colin would wander in the early hours when jet-lag kept him from sleeping. "I never had a plan to make a series based on these experiences, it just happened,” he says. His insomnia is our gain.
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