Heather Fraser, Magpie Series, 2020

Artist statement:

I am based in Queensland Australia, in a small township outside of Brisbane, where I live with my partner, three dogs and a cat. I am a self-taught painter. I first started painting when I was living in Winnipeg, Canada, 2003-4. It gave me something to do indoors for the long winters. I found painting a soothing counterpoint to my research into violence and abuse (of humans). For the next fifteen years I painted very little but a couple of years ago after moving to Queensland, I got more serious about art, finding it preoccupying me like never before.

A year ago I started painting animals, which was a bold move given my drawing skills are very limited. My aim is to capture the individuality, beauty and love of the animals I paint, as shown in the magpie series (above) and puppy love series (below).

Heather Fraser, Puppy Love, 2020

I appreciate how art can be a bridge into discussions about human-animal relations, including discussions that are confronting. I want to use my artwork to recognise animal sentience and the violence committed against animals, including violence in domestic homes. In the images below there is a small dog hiding from a domestic abuser. In the monochrome image there is a faithful dog trying to soothe their distressed human.

Heather Fraser, left to right: ‘Hiding from my abuser’, ‘ Helping my human’ 2020

From companion animals I have moved to explore the plight of other animals, such as those that are farmed and slaughters, or trying to eek out an existence often in the contexts of drought, pollution and vast habitat lost. The images of Tully the dingo, the strawberry pigs and native bee are examples.

Maybe it is because I’m from a working-class background that I use a mix of mis-tinted house paints bought really cheaply at paint distributors, and craft paint bought from $2 shops. I want the art that I create to speak to working-class people, including those that are hard to engage in discussions about (other) animals.

Heather Fraser, left to right: ‘Tully the dingo’, ‘the strawberry pigs’, ‘native bee’ 2020

About the artist:

Heather Fraser is an Associate Professor in Social Work at Queensland University of Technology, a career that has spanned three decades. Ten years ago, after an expose on live export, Heather’s social work expanded to include animals, and since then she has partnered with Nik Taylor (UC, NZ) in many research projects, including Companion Animals and Domestic Violence: Rescuing You, Rescuing Me (London, Palgrave, 2019). Heather identifies as an intersectional vegan feminist and is a senior fellow for Sentient Media.