A distant, historic relative was the muse for Queensland College of Art (QCA) Fine Art Lecturer and Painter Julie Fragar, in her latest exhibition ‘Grey Paintings’.

Displayed at NKN Gallery in Melbourne, Fragar’s monochrome paintings, focussing on Antonio de Fraga, form Part 2 of a series first started in 2014.

“Antonio’s six (or so) year journey from the Azores Islands off the west-coast of Portugal is a wild tale. In 1850, at the age of 12, Antonio’s father –unbeknownst to his mother– sent him away on an American whaling ship to avoid conscription. He never returned.”

Fragar explains that during the voyage, Antonio was twice shipwrecked and witnessed the ship’s crew being eaten by cannibals in Fiji. He was finally rescued by missionaries who brought him to Australia.

Fragar contemplates how her own perception of Antonio and his journey relate to and affect her family in the current day. “Antonio’s story has become a beautiful metaphor for what I can see playing out in front of me today. [My family] went to the Azores Islands (recently) … and to see [my son] Hugo playing around on the cliffs where Antonio would have been … it was really quite profound.”

Julie Fragar, Fade to Australia (Hugo and Antonio), 2016, oil on board, 92 x 72cm

Julie Fragar, Fade to Australia (Hugo and Antonio), 2016, oil on board, 92 x 72cm

Australian Painter and Writer Steve Cox said Fragar’s exhibition had a great continuity and cohesion.

“Slowly, various narratives unfold and become evident in the paintings. Things are hidden and, conversely, revealed as the pictures unravel in front the viewer, giving up their secrets and depths.”

Dan Rule from The Age described Fragar’s paintings as, “frightfully complex, layered and downright sublime in their active slippages between perceptual planes, visual fields, histories and realities,” and says the exhibition at NKN Gallery, “represents one of her most realised and intriguing bodies of work to date.”

Fragar’s paintings have found significant critical acclaim and inclusion in important exhibitions at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.

Equally telling is the effect Fragar’s teaching has had on her many Fine Art students at the Queensland College of Art. QCA graduate and Painter Monica Rohan studied under Julie Fragar during her time at the College.

“The best thing about QCA is the community it creates — it’s still a huge part of my life, all the friends I made there—including the staff—are artists, and we continue to support each other,” she says.

QCA Director, Derrick Cherrie reflects on the influence of QCA’s Lecturers.

“The QCA has a very rich collection of talented teachers and it draws some of the most talented students, so they come together and form a kind of laboratory of contemporary art practice, which helps them find their own creative direction.”

Learn more about studying Visual Art with teachers like Julie Fragar at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University Open Day, Sunday 24 July 2016. Presentations, information sessions, demonstrations, studio tours and exhibitions are scheduled throughout the day.