“Life is a performance and art its most vital creative act”. – Brent Ray Fraser
Bringing Up Brent
There’s a cacophony of crazy pop culture going on these days – a hot pot stew of steaming sexuality, oozing liberty and deliciously over-the-top individuality– and Brent Ray Fraser is making the most of it when making his art. Fraser is catching the light of this sexed-up, in-your-face, self-glorious digital age and turning it into a rainbow of colourful art pieces and novel performances crackling with pop energy and sensual pleasures. Twenty-first century creative freedom just found its cocky liberator.
Fraser’s theatricality is something to consider. Behind the scenes, there’s a strong arm tug-of-war going on between the shy, curious nerd that Fraser was as a kid and the risk-taking adult performance artist he has become: one works privately and diligently on his art; the other is tits-up and all for show. It’s a wonder there’s NO conflict between his aw-shucks gentleness and his brazen daredevil spirit. Fraser seems to resolve this challenge by using his whole body as part of his art process and by making his whole life into an art piece. In this way, he’s practicing the German ideal known as ‘GESAMTKUNSTWERK’ – “life as a total work of art”. Don’t worry about the pronunciation – it’s the ethos that matters. As Fraser himself has said, his talent is “a full-body experience”.
The Silo Studio
Fraser’s current work space is a key clue for understanding his creative efforts. Located down a windy backroad in the rural suburbs way outside Vancouver, the studio is an old grain silo that Fraser gutted and converted from scratch.
The space feels like a circus with Fraser as the ringmaster.
It’s a wild mix of Andy Warhol’s Factory and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. A sanctum for whatever pleasures fill an arrested-adolescent mind dreaming adult dreams of sexual independence. One particularly nice feature nestled amongst an array of pin-up photos is an old wooden curio cabinet endlessly stocked with chocolate bars, catering to the old and young at heart.
It’s not that the place is juvenile – rather, it’s theatrically nostalgic- a funky 70s-style carnival of visual pleasure and wild energy, splashed with colour and kitsch. With old metal muffin tins covering the ceiling and many walls, the room almost feel homespun save for the kink everywhere about – it’s as if Fraser was the lovechild of Martha Stewart and the Marquis de Sade.
You might be inclined to dismiss all this as the madcap delirium of an artist bent on his own weird ways. But Fraser is a careful observer of the contemporary art scene and well aware of the way many of its leading figures push their art to the edge. Or pushed in the case of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat – two artists that serve as guardian angels over much of Fraser’s output. But current power-Pop stars like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons – with their over-the-top spectacles and highbrow critical favour – let Fraser do his own thing without reticence or regret. In his opinion, art is best served HOT. He uses sexuality as a lure and the result is a whole lot of subversively fun and erotically charged work.
In the current art market, the genre term for what Fraser is doing is Pop Surrealism. It’s a street art rebellion against the rules that art must be cold and dull – dryly intellectual – to qualify as highbrow. In this current age of excess when sex is so much part of the public square, why should art be tame? So Fraser is taking his audience for a walk on the wild side and liberating their love for the creative carnal spirit long buried under the boredom of polite art. Why would anyone want to stop him? Let the guy go pop and be happy for that.
Brent Ray Fraser Biography
Brent Ray Fraser is a phantasmagoric force for the seductive power of creativity. A graduate of Emily Carr University, Fraser is deeply committed to the idea of art as conceptual theater.
This provocateur creates art that is sly, humorous, and bold – playing with commercial culture, mass media and public sexuality that is reshaping the new millennium.
Fraser’s work is known for its colourful reinterpretation of pop cultural artifacts and the liberation of the sexual impulse that gives life to art. Investigating the role of the artist as public spectacle and the body as the source material for creativity. Fraser makes full use of himself as a subject of his art. The work references a broad array of cultural touch points – from death to Disney, pop art to pornography, celebrity worship to animal magnetism. At the heart of it all – Fraser’s roaring rallying cry – is a love for life. Fraser turns himself and his art into a wild ride of good energy and sexual appeal and pulls everyone along with him.
Fraser’s paintings, prints, videos and mixed-media work have been widely published and are collected internationally. His work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions throughout North America. He is regularly booked for live painting spectacles around the world.
Fraser lives and works in a converted grain silo, in the rural community of Langley outside Vancouver.
The Freedom of Expression
What is it about liberty that holds us back and makes us nervous? Why are we so afraid of revealing ourselves? Or so quick to limit our potential, hide our naked truths, question happiness and hesitate over love. Shame seems to stalk us at every turn. Given freedom, we stop ourselves. It’s as if freedom is the first step before failure. The open and expressive possibilities of life and the full force of creativity – all that wild, wicked, wonderful energy – are often tamed and dulled to an apologetic whisper.
That’s not how I want to go at my life or my art. But I did start off behind those walls.
As a kid, I was painfully shy and kept my head down and hid my creative curiosity behind a wall of self-denial. Then my dad taught me a trick that led me to a bigger truth. Afraid to stand up or stand out in public and always worried about how people saw me, he told me to change how I saw them. “Picture them all in their underwear”, he suggested. As it turned out, stripping down the audience stripped away my self-doubt. Once you turn fear into a farce, you are free to enjoy your life more fully. That was my first piece of performance art – and it was all about the audience.
Inspiration and Ethos
Voyeurism remains a key element in my work. The perception, involvement and imaginative sensuality of my audience – whether seen or unseen – matters to what I do. My type of performance art plays out in the private theaters of fantasy and the imagination of whoever is watching. I believe creativity is a gift we should share – and what people make of my art adds to its potential. That mingling of creative juices is enlivening.
Andy Warhol famously said that “Pop Art is for everyone”. I also want to get rid of the barriers that often divide people from creativity and art in all its forms. I like art that bursts out with good energy. Art that seduces and enchants.
For me, making art is a full body experience. I put everything I have into my pieces and, like Rauschenberg, use any ordinary object or mark-making tool available to put real life into the work. Whatever it takes to prick someone’s attention and get them to see and feel the beauty and power of creative expression.
– Brent Ray Fraser