Interview with Karina Fraser

Geoff Loop met up with Karina Fraser, artist, photographer and founder of The Forward For Wiz Trust, to discuss art, music and why downloads are killing music (visit our Art Gallery for examples of Karina’s work).

Geoff: Karina, thanks for spending some time with me today; perhaps we could start with where you hail from?

Karina: Well I was born in Aug 19xx to a lovely, but slightly odd, family of Hammers fans then residing in Farnham, Surrey. It were back in the day when us kids went to little, middle and big schools and I went to Heath End in Farnham – where I suffered for being the younger sister of the teachers’ terroriser 7 years previously.

Geoff: At what age did you discover that art was something important in your life?

Karina: As soon as I could put a pencil on paper rather than in my mouth I guess. I remember being given the task of designing posters for the school’s fete, when about 5, and being given a lolly pop for my efforts. It was then I decided that if I got good stuff for doing fun stuff, then that’s what I was going to do forever.

Geoff: Did you have any particular mentors at your school, ones that encouraged you to investigate further?

Karina: Oh yes, particularly at secondary school and 6th form – I was lucky to have fantastic teachers that really did believe in me. Their encouragement spurred me on and will never be forgotten. I can only hope that there are hundreds of other pupils out there that they went on to inspire.

Geoff: Did you have any formal art training after school?

Karina: I ventured off to Camberwell College of Arts in preference to St Martins, it seemed to be much more down to earth. I couldn’t imagine spending 4 years of my life surrounded by people with their heads firmly shoved up their arses, and I really did make the best decision. Although I eventually graduated with a degree in Graphic Design, the experiences across the range of artistic practice gave me a great grounding and ability that has stood me in good stead for everything that I’ve done.

Geoff: Where did you first publically show your work?

Karina: Discounting the times I randomly put pictures up around my parents garden and invited complete strangers to have a look around, I think it was at the Farnham Maltings back in ‘96 or ‘97. I exhibited 3 paintings and sold them all at the private view, somehow!

Geoff: Who are/were your artistic inspirations?

Karina: I love countless artists’ work and am inspired by so much it’s impossible to answer, but I particularly respect the work of Hiroshi Sugamoto and Mark Rothko.

Several years ago I founded an arts network that saw artists from the UK work at distance with artists, poets and musicians here and in the US. It was a great way of working and the stuff that came out of it was always interesting if not completely understood (even by me). I now work mostly solo and I miss it, but also enjoy the fact I have complete control over what I do – I’m the worst control freak I know.

Geoff: Do you art is sufficiently appreciated in the modern world?

Karina: Art is everywhere, everything has been designed, and every sound recorded has been made, designed and manufactured. The house you live in is designed, the sofa you sit on, the packaging your crappy microwave dinner came in. ‘Art’ is everywhere but it’s not appreciated fully. Art that sits on a wall shouldn’t be seen as elitist – the vast majority sits on the wall in form of graffiti. Like everything, as soon as big money gets handed over it becomes fashionable with an ‘elite’. How to raise the profile? Help everyone create – everyone has the ability.

Geoff: Do you ‘theorise’ about your work or does it just ‘happen’?

Karina: A bit of both I’m sure, but being synaesthetic (I see colours and images from words, letters, numbers, sounds and emotions), my response is always emotional. However, if I don’t think before I paint then it often comes out confused and ugly. Most of my inspiration comes from music however, always music.

Geoff: How important is art to your life – what does it bring to your life?

Karina: It’s my lifeblood; I know no different. Without it I would be an alarmingly imaginative alcoholic –and lonely, very very lonely.

Geoff: Where and when do you work?

Karina: In my living room. My partner is a talented ‘chippy’ who built me a pulley easel the width of one wall, its awesome. I also have a dark room at the West End Centre. Aldershot, which I share with the fantastically talented Matt Williams who takes wonderful shots of bands. I normally work best late at night with a bottle of red.

I’ll usually take a song, lyric or poem which projects images and colours into my sight line and then paint and draw what I see. I work in anything I can lay my hands on. I hate boundaries and taught techniques. There is no right and wrong if it works for you, just go with it. I once painted a scene for one of my oldest friends in red wine – it’s been interesting how it’s changed over the past 10 years!

Geoff: Is there a medium you would like to branch out into?

Karina: Like I say, I branch into anything I fancy… normally if my in-laws have picked it up at a car boot. I feel I should turn my hand more to crafts, but it feels too much like I’m pretending to be able. I know where I am slapping stuff onto a canvas or playing with chemicals and I feel I should really stick to that.

Geoff: Do you have a favourite piece of art?

Karina: Ha. Do you?

Geoff: Well do you have a favourite gallery or museum then?

Karina: There is only one answer that will ever fit here and it’s the West End Centre in Aldershot. Not because it has a ground breaking gallery or some fancy lighting, bespectacled art curator or been designed by an architectural guru. It is simply a friendly arts centre, fighting against the odds to present the community with great entertainment and arts education. The staff care and it shows. It’s a credit to its community and something that should be cherished for generations.

Geoff: It sounds like a place very dear to your heart but moving on to the more commercial side of things, can we talk about the first piece of work you were paid for/sold?

Karina: I sold 3 paintings during the private view of my first ever exhibition in a group show. They were a triptych complaining about the commercialisation of something or other… the usual teenage moans, and I think I sold all 3 for the princely sum of £30, just chuffed that someone actually liked them.

Geoff: Do you read your reviews?

Karina: Ha, no! If you want to read them I can give you my mother’s phone number?! Seriously, I’ve never taken notice of reviews, and why should I?

Geoff: Is the longevity of your work important to you though?

Karina: Well, yes I guess it is – as it should be for everyone. If we weren’t creating something we believe in, and that belief something we sustain, then what’s the point? I’m not trying to create something disposable here. Are any of us?

Geoff: Does your work support you financially?

Karina: If I chose to live the life of a tented nomad surviving on Tesco’s value kidney beans I might be in with a chance, but a I like to enjoy having a roof over my head and family around me and so I need to work 2 jobs to support that …and my artwork. And the charity I run. And everything else. In the future who knows… but I think I do.

Geoff: What are you working on at present?

Karina: My ongoing work is centred on the vast lyrics that Wiz left behind. Many of the songs have never seen the light of day, few have been demo-d, but most didn’t even find their way to a musical form. Sadly Wiz isn’t here to sort that, so it’s my way of getting them heard. I just hope that wherever he is he’s proud and he likes my visual interpretations.

Geoff: Did you enjoy your time working for the NME?

Karina: I was a freelance whipping-girl, earning enough through photos and the odd review to keep me in mugs of Smash for the week. Great seeing myself in print though…

Geoff: How important do you think art is to the music industry?

Karina: Art & Music go hand in hand like Romeo & Juliet.

Geoff: Do you think that with the advent of spotify/downloads etc that art has been sidelined in music?

Karina: Yes, and I have so far resisted downloading ANYTHING as its killing artists, labels, designers and our record shops. It’s just another symptom of our consumer society requiring immediate satisfaction before moving onto the next thing. We will be the end of ourselves, and this is where it starts.

Geoff: Who are your favourite bands/musicians?

Karina: The list could go on forever but…I grew up loving the Replacements and have never grown up. In 1997 I wrote to Wiz (I liked MC4, but only caught the tail end of the frenzy as I was a few years too young) asking if I could use some of his lyrics in a painting. He was astonished that something he created could transcend art forms – we never looked back!

Remember to check out Karina’s work in our Art Gallery.





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