Curator's Radar: Julie Fragar - Art Collector

Issue 55, January - March 2011

This profile appeared in the "Curator's Radar" feature, part of the annual special issue "50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2011"

In 2010 seven of Julie Fragar’s paintings were purchased for the Art Gallery of New South Wales by Wayne Tunnicliffe, the gallery’s curator of contemporary art. Her work was included in the 2010 Primavera exhibition curated by Katie Dyer. The previous year she won an Australia Council residency in Barcelona.

Born in Gosford, New South Wales in 1977 she now lives and works in Brisbane and is currently a doctor of visual arts candidate at the Queensland College of Art.

Fragar’s intense paintings are both personal and universal. They are patchworks of lives – pain, joy and the disconnection of human relationships. They are exquisitely painted and overpainted and her subject matter ranges from the everyday to the erotic, the mundane to the implicitly malevolent. There are many raw and emotional self-portraits and portraits of family and friends in her work.

Fragar makes constant reference to the history of painting, in particular the work of 19th century realist painters such as Gustave Courbet. Courbet’s uncompromising eye and his desire to paint the reality of life around him is also evident in Fragar’s work. There is an intensity of focus in Courbet’s Portrait of a Desperate Man, for instance, that appears in some of Fragar’s self-portraits: a need to lay the truth bare.

In commenting on the reasons behind the AGNSW acquistion, Tunnicliffe says: “I included her work in my Wilderness exhibition last year. Those works explored men and masculinity and how men function in the world today. They came out of her interest in one of her friends who is a hunter. He uses a high quality bow and arrow. Julie was interested in that idea of the masculine role of the hunter, the time spent out in the landscape stalking the prey and then the primal moments of the final kill.”

Many of Fragar’s realistically executed paintings are overlaid with text or the x-rays of other forms. “She is interested in painterly artifice,” explains Tunnicliffe. “Her work fits into the gallery collection because she is a contemporary artist looking at the history of art. Hers is a snapshot diaristic style and that is very now, so her work represents what is happening at the moment. I was interested in the way she uses photography to capture a snapshot and then how she translates that into paint. She has a broad knowledge of art history, especially realism, and her work incorporates that diaristic-style intimacy.”

Fragar’s work is also represented in the collections of the University of Queensland Art Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery.

Prue Gibson

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