Friday, June 25, 2010

Lost for Words by Peter Fraser

My dream world is almost completely empty of all possessions. When I fantasize about the perfect home, it is almost monastic in appearance. It is flooded with light, has a small library, perhaps a few pieces of artwork sparsely punctuating a couple walls, my cat (the only chaos), a large bed, and the warming presence of someone I love. There is little, if any, bric-a-brac. The world Peter Fraser describes in his photographs is the one I hold at bay. His new book from the FFotogallery in Wales Lost for Words is for me, a decent into one version of hell.

That may sound extreme, hell, but looking at all of the objects he describes in his books my mind reels with the well intentioned but ultimately disturbed creations that surround us daily. Fraser thrusts our noses inches from things which might seem familiar at first and while seducing with color and a straightforward view, he accentuates their decay or artifice.

Looking at his photos I remember the same sinking feeling I used to get as a child when I would pull my N-gauge train set from under my bed only to find that within a short time the small foliage and resin lake, which I labored over to reconstruct reality and suspend disbelief, had been covered in a fine layer of dust and cat hair. It all seemed futile. No longer could I become completely captivated by that miniature world when the locomotive would emerge from the mountain tunnel hauling a huge dust bunny.

When Fraser published his book Material in 2002 I was less disturbed. That work felt partially contained within laboratories and work spaces sealed off from my usual environs. Thus, I could contain it - my mind told me 'that is there, I am here.' With much of his other work though, there is no comforting barrier, I am here, it is here too - just look down at the floor. I want to escape into the blue of the bird's egg in one of his images but those damn thorns and the scraped gold edge of the picture frame just above it keep escape impossible. Those loaves of bread made of foam are harmless yet the color (jaundiced skin?), and the wrinkles make me slightly nauseous.

Just like with the train set of my past, there is a pleasure in disrupting the scale of things. In Fraser's pictures it is a stylistic language he employs that teases the mind. It takes a moment to understand the relationship of these often physically small objects to the larger world. Not enough information is given to know the full answer. We are left grappling, lost for words.

I try to decipher the chalk markings that appear on the side of a red bookcase in the last plate of the book but thankfully their logistical meaning is beyond my grasp - if they weren't, I might be of a mind to follow their direction and descend further. Instead I still have the option to close the book and safely contain this madness. A blue spine peeking from a shelf is less disturbing - it can now coexist with my dream world.


Christian said...

Peter's work is among my most favorite. One of the things I most enjoy about his work is the feeling that he's sending coded, secret messages; it's allusive and enigmatic. The material in his work seems to contain deeper meaning that is difficult at times to fully grasp (as it should be), and I love that. Thanks Jeff.

Mr. Whiskets said...

Thanks Christian. I have three of Peter's books and I agree. That difficulty to "fully grasp" is a character of his work and books which I find lacking in most work from contemporary photographers.

Chuck Shacochis said...

That was a beautifully written review - by far the most insightful words I have read concerning Fraser's work. I hope your summer is going well.
Thanks a lot as always and take care,


Anonymous said...

Love the red painted cables and the shoe on the newsprint.

Bill of Wasilla said...

I like your image of what your perfect home should be - especially the cat part. But there should also be a yard, a big one, but not necessarily a lawn as wild is best. There should be an airplane tied down in the yard and a runway and or lake that one can take off and land on with floats or skis.

And one more thing, absolutely requisite - that perfect home must be surrounded by Alaska. If it is not, then the whole exercise is pointless and futile, for it is no place that I would want to live.