Ingénu/e first came across Nina Fraser as one of the team running the Art House café in Southampton. We liked her work, especially its relatively extreme diversity. She is a mixed media artist and has recently ‘taken flight’ to concentrate on her career as an artist, so we thought it was a good time to catch up with her and here she shares her views on her influences, her philosophical leanings and what inspires her creativity
1. First off Nina, tells us about founding the Art House and about your decision to leave after 6 years there. What gave you the idea to create it originally and why did you leave recently?
The Art House formed from a combination of different visions and synchronous events - I had been away volunteering overseas, and had also experienced some really great cafes. It also seemed that there was a creative community present in Southampton but nowhere central for it to meet. It was extremely hard work for about three years, with no salary to speak of, and I was pretty entrenched... but then suddenly I realised people I didn't know were talking about it, and it was becoming 'that really cool art cafe in town'. My ultimate goal was always to see it sustain itself, and I realised I could only see it clearly for what it was by removing myself from the picture. It was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately I wanted the time to focus on my own artwork.
2. Tell us about 2013:SELF
It began as a quest to explore my creative identity through self-portraiture and set disciplined boundaries. By limiting my working medium to ink, working to a timescale approximately 2 minutes, and 15x15cm squared paper, I produced a self-portrait every day for a year. I enjoyed the sense of freedom that came through devising constrictions, and also realised that although creativity cannot be forced, it needs a starting point, and a daily routine worked well for me. And by the end of the year I had an exhibition!
3. Your work is quite varied from illustration to mixed media, from the amusing to the sublime. Do you remember your first interest in art? What was that? When did you realise you wanted to be an artist? What sparked you off?
I remember specifically in the classroom when I was about 5 years old, being asked what we would like to be when we grew up. Most people wanted to be astronauts and stuff. I was very defiantly going to be 'an artist'. I was always encouraged by my parents to draw - my grandad was a well respected Flemish sculptor - so it seemed very natural to me.
4. As you grew and evolved, what influenced you? What artists did you admire?
I have always been drawn to colour - particularly the Surrealists and Dadaists - and have never really been afraid of using it in my work. I am also finding myself drawn to the different processes of creativity, in particular the notions of determination versus organic inspiration. This quote by Humphrey Ocean inspires me; 'I do not set out to put on paper a thing that is in any way preconceived, so there is no prey to stalk.'
5. Tell us about your degree experience.
I studied at Winchester College of Art at the time when the textile department was really interesting and 'textile art' was a degree subject (a very materials/process-driven conceptual course). We were given free-reign to explore any material we wished to as long as we could justify the selection. I explored all the traditional methods in textiles and then discovered woodwork, animation and model making could also be seen as a textile process. By the third year I had a real driving force behind my work. I think a lot of people take it for granted how much universities provide in terms of materials and support - I felt very lucky.
6. Tell us about Giltterati.
Glitterarti is a facepainting business I set up whilst the Art house began unfolding - it all happened by chance really, I discovered I was quite good at painting on faces and really enjoyed meeting new people. It is a brilliant networking opportunity for me and helps me travel around Hampshire. I also have a decorated vintage pram that I take to festivals to paint from - people are really attracted to it.
7. You are interested in Eastern philosophy. Tell us about that and its influence on your art.
It began through daily yoga practise and reading of spiritual texts. I started painting after meditation to see how it affected my work - then I began to see myself as more of a channel then a director of the brush, if you see what I mean. Work happens more fluidly when I am free from mental obstruction.
8. Now that you are ‘free’ from your Directorship at The Art House what are your immediate creative plans?
I am in a very playful, investigative phase right now. I am creating a series of watercolour ink and collaged landscapes of places I visit. I also work to commission and really enjoy the chance factor of this - last month I created a menu for a Peruvian pop up restaurant in East London, screen printed album covers for a band, and taught portraiture to University medical students... this month I'm painting ukuleles. I am focusing on my website and marketing, thankfully the Art House taught me a fair bit about that, and also how to use various online resources.
9. What would you say was your goal or goals as an artist
For this year I would like to develop my current collage work to exhibition level - also working to a larger scale. I relish a challenge, and really thrive on diversity. My ultimate goal is to feel alive and aware of all the processes on my artists journey so I can truly feel authentic - and of course make a living in the process!
10. What are you trying to achieve with your art as regards the audience viewing your work?
I really hope the audience take away with them an experience of their own. I don't really think I can give them much more than a starting point. I prefer it when someone sees something entirely different to what I set out to do, that makes me believe that the work has a longevity outside of my own creation.
11. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of launching themselves now or in the future as a full time artist? What has been successful for you?
Just begin! I really believe you have to dive into something to make it work - standing at the side of the pool will just keep you in the same place. Keep at it, keep inspired, develop your own creative structure and routine to work within and keep reviewing it, read and mix with others who have done it, and stay true to yourself. and... Enjoy the journey!
Ingénu/e magazine and website’s raison d’être is to promote emerging creative talent of any genre www.ingenuemagazine.co.uk