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JH

Diagrammatic Spatial Exuberances

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Installation of Robbie Fraser's Focus Fever upstairs at Two Rooms Robbie Fraser, Premonition (Heaven's Blades), 2023, oil on canvas, 711 x 686 mm Robbie Fraser, Masculine Steampunk (Mulgrew's Maggot), 2023, oil on canvas, 711 x 686 mm Installation of Robbie Fraser's Focus Fever upstairs at Two Rooms Robbie Fraser, Charm of the manipulator, 2023, oil on canvas, 686 x 660 mm Robbie Fraser, Abandoned Construction (Megachurch on Sarpedon), 2023, oil on canvas, 686 x 660 mm Installation of Robbie Fraser's Focus Fever upstairs at Two Rooms Robbie fraser, Shadow on Reflection, 2023, oil on canvas, 686 x 660 mm Robbie Fraser, Focus Fever, 2023, oil on canvas, 711 x 686 mm Installation of Robbie Fraser's Focus Fever upstairs at Two Rooms Robbie Fraser, Her Vengence Does Not Discriminate, 2023, oil on canvas, 558 x 508 mm Installation of Robbie Fraser's Focus Fever upstairs at Two Rooms Robbie Fraser, Failing Containment, 2023, oil on canvas, 711 x 711 mm Installation of Robbie Fraser's Focus Fever upstairs at Two Rooms Robbie Fraser, Solar Allergy, 2023, oil on canvas, 558 x 508 mm

Obviously familiar with the conventions of Op Art, Grid Painting, Constructivism, and Minimalism, Fraser in these module-loaded works likes to mess with expectations, to on occasion, slyly thwart them. A restrained slowly-emerging humour (anticipating eventual viewer surprise) helped by the droll titles, is very evident.

Auckland

 

Robbie Fraser
Focus Fever


6 October - 4 November 2023

In this display of nine moderately-sized abstract canvases, upstairs in Two Rooms, Robbie Fraser presents images that seem to allude to office furniture displays and the artworks of Donald Judd. They also, it seems, nod to the linear diagrams found in textbooks on art, perception and spatial illusion, especially those by varied experts in psychology like Ernest Gombrich, Rudolph Arnheim and Richard Gregory.

Quivering stacks and lined-up leaning modules dominate, with works often vertically split compositionally and made symmetrical, or horizontally bisected into two sections. They all trade on figurative and spatial ambiguity. Interpretation of forms is invariably slippery.

Most of these paintings feature isometric or single point perspective with parallel (not converging) edges, while the flat unmodulated colour within their repetitive hard-edged geometric shapes is harsh and strident. The result is an eye-popping blend of Nicholas Kushernick with Don Judd or (with figuration) Konrad Klapheck.

Obviously familiar with the conventions of Op Art, Constructivism, grid painting, and Minimalism, Fraser in these module-loaded works likes to mess with expectations, to on occasion, slyly thwart them. A restrained slowly-emerging humour (anticipating eventual viewer surprise) helped by the droll titles, is very evident.

Though these are abstractions, and maybe symbols or diagrams, there are seven different types of what could be called painted ‘subject matter’. Because of similarities, they can roughly be described as: stacked shelves; rows of boxes; stacked drawers; hovering platforms; linear diamonds; tilted books; and narrow tents. A peaked tent might be a tall woman’s skirt; a chest of drawers a Donald Judd; three rows of diamonds a harlequin’s chemise; an inverted v of hexagonal solar panels could be a drone.

Many of the rendered forms are inverted V or diamond shaped, that often play with parallel linear strips as narrow double-sided walls on trays, or floating flat planar squares. Others emphasise zigzagging linear trajectories where the line abruptly changes colour in repeated angular configurations. Or else line colour and planar widths sneakily change, in other unexpected places. Shape repetition or colour continuation can’t be assumed to be consistently regular. Subtle discrepancies are clearly intended.

Seen as an interacting group, Fraser’s snazzy, loudly exuberant paintings are a breath of fresh air. Highly optical and visually sizzling, they bodily celebrate the pleasures of looking closely, checking for inconsistencies and being affected by physical proximity. Halfway between minimalist non-objectivity and real life figuration they exploit semi-abstraction, and reference a realm of elegantly designed, functional office products. Avoiding restful soft pastel colours, and being highly tactile, they retinally vibrate, with lined-up agitated jagged points and thrilling nervous flicker.

John Hurrell

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