17 may 2012 | roland fraser

Roland Fraser: New Works, Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh

Reviewed by Duncan MacMillan for The Scotsman newspaper Published on Thursday 17 May 2012

Fraser’s work is less familiar. It has often stood out in group shows and he has already had some success with commissions, but this is the first chance I, at least, have had to see his work in any quantity.

He works in wood, not any wood, but found wood, which displays its enigmatic history in its shape and on worn and battered surfaces of rubbed and peeling paint. He searches for promising pieces in skips and salvage yards. If he then simply assembled these so that the resulting composition suggested something like a figure, or had some other kind of picturesque association, it would be pretty old-hat, but he doesn’t. He disassembles each piece, carefully cataloguing its parts, and then reassembles them, intricately matching the parts, cutting and shaving them so that they look as though that is how they have always been. Where he began with something shabby and broken, he ends up with a perfectly flat rectangular object that hangs on the wall like a picture and indeed looks like a picture, so beautifully do all the shapes and colours work together. He makes a new order out of disorder, brings a kind of life back to the worn-out and rejected.

Prestongrange, for instance, is made up of vertical bands of blue, green and pink weathered paint, all irregular, but all matching each other so that there are no gaps. Another example, Barrow, is composed of 18 rectangular blocks that range from blue through purple to brown.

These blocks are all much the same size. Nevertheless they do not exactly match and so, to achieve overall regularity, the spaces between are filled with small blocks, cut to size, but also irregular so that in the whole composition small and large echo each other to create a greater unity. It is a bit like marquetry, but without any of the fussy tightness that limits its appeal. On the contrary, remarkably, these seem free and constantly inventive.