Did you pass Geography… ?
I don’t remember a stand-alone class for Geography. I think it was all
folded into History or Civics classes. I grew up during the Cold War,
where such geographical relationships seemed less important since
everything could be destroyed at any moment.
Today such knowledge seems less important because of globalization and
the shrinking of distance through swift travel and the web. An
extensive knowledge of Geography is useful but not really necessary.
I’m fascinated by maps but less for their usefulness in guidance than
for their function as symbols and brackets for information. And as a
means to telling a narrative.
How about shop?
I took shop in Jr High at the height of my obsession with AC/DC. All I
did was cut out logos for my bedroom. Everyone thought I was kinda
It wasn’t till undergrad that I began really spending time in wood
shops and becoming more in tune with my inner dude.
Honestly I just can’t stand not knowing how to make something. For
instance right now I’m kinda itching to learn how to make iPhone apps
even though far too many people are already doing so.
Too soon to pinpoint. I’ve learned a lot interacting with Andrew and
Adam. About the nature of collaboration and the multiple juggling acts
required by visual artists to make a name for themselves.
I think we influence each other in numerous ways. But not so much in
terms of subject matter or formal concerns. We are the same age and
have been making work too long to be easily shifted away from the
subjects and ideas that have propelled and held our interest to this
point. I admire their work, fully aware I could never make such work
and they admire mine with the same concession.
When did you begin your art practice?
I always drew as a kid. By high school I had pretensions toward being
an artist. Nothing else seemed interesting enough to bother with. I
turned a spare bedroom at my Mom’s house into a studio after high
school and made weird ambitiously scaled paintings. Awful stuff.
Tortured looking fragments of bodies in bright colors.
In undergrad I balanced time between painting over-sized garishly
colored heads and spare minimalist tinged sculpture. By graduation I
chucked the head painting and started painting the sculpture in garish
hues. I refined that method in the 11 years between undergrad and
graduate school, figuring out I was really interested in the
repetition and labor and process. My work became more conceptually
based, though still very much in a minimalist vernacular and still
very material in orientation. I was a fairly pure sculptor and loved
Moving to NYC for grad school necessitated a number of shifts. My
projects rarely generate objects any longer. My projects are
increasingly ephemeral, lasting sometimes only a few hours or days.
The underlying concepts are increasingly central rather than the
Why do you work this way and what symbolism and basic concepts run
through your work as a whole?
I’m fascinated by every human’s need to communicate and by the myriad
means and methods those attempts encompass. Even with all the
technological changes of contemporary society, getting even the
simplest thought or idea across is never easy. So many variables
exist. I’m interested in exploring how the varied means both succeed
and fail, clarify and confuse.
I’m also taken with the cumulative effect of the smallest of
commonplace gestures, how the little things add up to something so
much larger than their components. The sculptures I once made tried to
reflect that in their construction and its an underlying approach in
many of my newer projects. A repeated action or activity, seemingly
inconsequential, but gathering greater meaning over time.
Equally fascinating are the porous exchange of voices and means of expression between individuals and corporate entities, each co-opting the other’s forms and styles. My text installations similarly adopt varied means and voices: billboards and advertising, art- speak boilerplate, historical markers and open-ended narratives completed by the viewer. In a series planted in front of transitional urban spaces, the voices are some we use and encounter day to day: the choppy shorthand of a text message, the overheard conversation detached from any context and the ambiguous inflections of a hastily worded email. Derived from observations of common and fleeting moments, these drawings of ash are the temporal and transitory nature of the moments documented and the placed directly in the path of pedestrian traffic. Each disintegrates and disappears quickly under the rush of ongoing urban life, echoing sites utilized. The phrases, while evocative or poetic for some are mysterious for others, the motive and intended audience of their anonymous author is not made explicit. Is it art, advertising, graffiti or official?Nicholas Fraser. 6 views of installation from Dirt 2.0, 2008
What do you strive for and what are some specific goals for the future?
I strive to make work I haven’t seen anyone else doing in exactly the
same way. I want to explore my ideas and methodologies through a
series of escalating steps that build upon and comment upon one
another. My series called Mapping Projects succeeds in this. My
ephemeral text installations in flour or ash are just starting to feel
like a healthy path of exploration.
My chief goal for the immediate future is to find more support for
making the work, either through residencies or exhibition/project
opportunities. I constantly apply for such things, knowing that having
institutional support can really help small ideas blossom. I recently
did my first collaboration work and am looking for new possibilities
for such work.
What is your opinion on the art community in NYC and what part would
you like to play in it?
Community is always very local, comprised of the circle of people you
involve yourself with directly and often. You always hear how small
the NY art world is (despite it’s size as perceived by the outside
world) and my experience finds that to be true. Yet despite this
’smallness’ any sense of community I’ve seen or experienced always
involved a small number of people who frequently associate. Much of
own artistic community is derived from people I went to SVA or
Much of what can be construed as ‘community’ in NY revolves more
around the machinations of the marketplace than the artists or art
making. The marketplace has a role and separating the two is never
clear cut. The marketplace allows for interesting things to happen.
But community for an artist is something else. It’s apart from and
indifferent to the market.
Please send a brief bio if you haven’t already.
Nicholas Fraser (b. 1969, UK) lives and works in Brooklyn. He earned
an MFA from the School of Visual Art and completed a residency at the
Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in 2008.
His site specific installations were recently included in the Art in
Odd Places Festi-val (New York). The Indianapolis Museum of Art will
Vist Nicholas at www.nicholasfraser.com