In conversation with Leah Fraser.
Creativity is an immersive, visceral experience for both the creator or artist and the audience, that is a fact. This especially rang true when we dove deep into the home of artist and pure, unadulterated creative Leah Fraser. Her work an “astral projection”, steeped in symbolism and metaphor with an enchanting magic that draws you in closer, until it almost envelopes you.
INTERVIEW BY ONDINE PURINTON-MILLER
Autumn in Sydney is an incredible time, there is a blissful quietude that reverberates across the once bustling summer city. The mornings lengthen and draw out and there is a freshness in the air that pushes you to just breathe, a rose in each cheek and that unmistaken pink nose that a cool morning can offer you. Perfection.
Each home that welcome us brings us a new vantage point to see the female experience, we are all so incredibly different, finding joy and beauty in boundless tchotchkes, books and crystals. But increasingly, it is evident that in our differences, we are also so similar, as women. These creatives we have encountered are swathed in beauty and creation, Leah is endlessly transmitting energy “(like) an antenna” and channelling it into physical form. That incredibly primal divine female energy is what Leah describes as “bringing beauty into the world”. That is an artist, through and through and that is truly what Leah Fraser is. Within her hands is the ability to create, limitlessly and communicate universally.
As the aforementioned autumn briskness filled our lungs, we were able to totally be in the wondrous space that Leah had created for her and her family, the sweet autumnal breeze kissing the plants that lived in each corner, her birth stone “rose quartz” perched on the sideboard. The crystal is clearly working. This is a home.
Her mother described her as having “a generosity of spirit” with a “big heart”, which appeared to be a perfect representation of her. In our diamond and pink tourmaline induced haze, we giggled endlessly, this charming beaming smile scattered through our shots, we listened to excellent music, we laughed and joy simply flowed. That generosity of spirit was immediately tangible, weaving its way through her home, touching her art and entwining itself in the heart of her daughter Odette. That energy is contagious and nurturing that joy, being empowered as a female in joy is what this planet needs.
She is a storyteller, a sculptress, painter of pictures, mother and woman. The embodiment of an absolutely divine, feminine.
Leah, at this moment in time, what is your calling?
At this moment in time my calling is to be a storyteller, painter of pictures, sculptress and mother.
Where did you see your creative ambition manifest itself first? Have you always been creatively inclined?
Making things is something that I have always needed, it’s a language to me, and has always been a part of the way that I interact with the world. I remember, as a child, having a very rich imaginary life. We had a lot of contact with nature and freedom to create stories around the natural places that we inhabited. I think I managed to stay in touch with that child!
A creative by nature offers a piece of them in every one of their creations, it’s a very intimate offering to the world. What is this process like for you?
There are different avenues through with I show more or less of myself… my paintings are very much a part of me, but they are not necessarily personally revealing. They are a sort of astral projection… if there are things that are personal, they are masked in metaphor, I use the imagery like dream imagery and encode symbols, tying them to other stories: the art work is not about me but it is of me. Even so it is with my heart in my throat that I show each piece, because I am exposing myself to scrutiny. I write a lot for myself, diaries and poetry is my way of recording and reflecting in a much more intimate way, a way of articulating a secret self. I have only ever really shown a few people my notebooks.
When do you feel you are most “in” your power as a female? For many of the ladies we’ve had the pleasure of talking to, there has been a moment in time that has signified this actualisation, a juncture when they stepped forward and past the threshold.
Becoming a mother has been the most femininely empowering experience of my life. The whole arc, the responsibility of being the caretaker of a being that I literally carried into the world holds such a force.
At what point did you see yourself pursuing the path that you’re currently travelling as an artist? Many have often inadvertently created signposts in the road, from an early age, it’s only in hindsight do they realise that it was laid out all along. Of course for many, its not that simple…
Lots and lots of small choices have led me where I am. Seeing a path of being a practicing artist was slow, it’s not always an easy road. I suppose one major turning point for me was doing an artists residency in Mexico: it was the first time that I gave myself to my practice every day, and I think really decided that it was something that I was willing to do.
How do you remain in your passion every day? Where do you source that magic from?
I strongly believe in the power of routine and cycles. Having a sequence of actions…. it shifts the energy like doing a dance, and gives life a steady pulse. I am also very fortunate that I love what I do - I see inspiration everywhere and try to stay switched on to that – be the antenna, be curious, be interested in the world, listen to music, read, see friends, then come back to the work with a fresh eye.
At what moment do you feel most powerful as a woman?
There are many different facets to my own understanding of myself as a woman in this world, but I feel a power in creation, in love, a power in age: knowing myself better and better. I feel power in making food for my lover and child, in the way that I dress, in bringing beauty to the world. The moments of my life that I have felt most ‘powerful’ have been those that have been the biggest risks, that have required the most bravery… and some moments are the most simple. We are lucky being born in a time and place where we are free to follow whatever path we choose without being told what we can or can’t do because of being a woman. To be so free – there is so much power in that.
Is there a personal ritual you hold close to you, that assists in creating harmonious existence with yourself?
At the moment it is simply my morning walk/swim/coffee ritual that clears my head and makes me ready for the day.
What fuels your fire - your driving force if you will that pushes you each day?
I think it’s a desire to see what's next.
Your works are incredibly rich with aspects of the metaphysical, a completely deep, expanded exploration and journey for the audience. What is this journey like for you as the creator?
It varies from work to work, but each piece really is a journey for me as much as it might be for the viewer. I always start of with a core idea that changes over the course of the making of the work, sometimes dramatically. Some paintings halfway through would be completely unrecognisable from the finished product. I work in a way that is very intuitive: I plan very little, preferring to just follow where it leads me. I feel a very personal relationship with each piece, sometimes it comes easy and some need a little more coaxing.
Women often find themselves fighting past our deeply engrained self-deprecation, sometimes we need an external vantage point to see ourselves from a different slant. How would your friends and family describe you?
I asked my mum and through her rose coloured glasses : I have a big heart, generosity of spirit and am an industrious hard worker, have a deep care for the people and world around me and an underlying seriousness.
Do you have a piece of jewellery that you hold dear, something that has endured life’s undulations and still stays by your side? What does it make you feel?
I go through real phases with my jewellery, I will be very strongly drawn to something, and wear it for a period of time, might be five months, might be five years, and then at a certain point, I take it off, and find it hard to wear again.
Is there a lesson you’ve learned, that is laced through your life that has been the most important one thus far?
Keep trying, never give up. And trust.
What is your Zodiac Sign? Do you identify closely with it?
Libra, yes and no…. I’m very Libran, in many ways, but I had my chart read not long ago and the astrologer had some interesting things to say about my rising sign (cancer) and it actually explains a few things….
Is there a stone you are drawn to most - do you keep it near you? Why?
I have always loved turquoise, and have had beautiful pieces, over the years, the colour is irresistible to me… in all its variations…
To you, what is most precious in your life?
Do you have any heirloom jewellery that has been passed down to you?
I have a gold medallion Capricorn necklace that was my mothers that I have been wearing every day for years now. I am surrounded by strong, steadfast capricorns (my mum, brother, boyfriend and two best friends) so it feels right to have it as a talisman.
What makes you laugh?
Lots of things… I love people with a good sense of humour… I love intelligence and wit…. I have a very silly side to me.
When do you feel most cherished?
In my home life.
What gives you courage?
I’m still learning how to be more courageous, but knowing what I want from life makes me push the boundaries of what I fear… I still do a lot of just shutting my eyes and jumping in!
What do you consider your proudest moment?
I have a lot of proud moments looking at my little bubba! I still can’t believe I made such a sweet little person!
When do you feel most your authentic, connected self?
There’s this thing that happens sometimes when I’m working and I forget everything around me – I am so in the moment – it’s like you are floating in the ocean and all you can hear is that crackling under the water and all you can see is the beautiful blue sky.
We’re all for breaking the rules at the best of times; but is there a rule you live by?
To thine own self be true.
Interview by Ondine Purinton-Miller
Photography by Matisse Ruby