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Mel Fraser, contemporary stone sculptor

© David Chow

Biography

Mel Fraser is a contemporary sculptor specialising in stone. She has worked from a variety of studios in and around Cambridge since the mid nineties. She is equally at home working on abstract or figurative pieces and her work has been shown at numerous art fairs around Europe and New York, The Chelsea Flower Show and most recently at On Form 16, the UK’s most prestigious sculpture exhibition devoted solely to stone.

Mel has worked in Carrara and Pietrasanta in Italy, at the quarries and stone yards in Kilkenny, Ireland and has a long collaboration with members of the Shona tribe from Zimbabwe.

Her work is held by collectors all over the world and a recent commission saw her work installed in Frank Gehry’s Opus Building in Hong Kong.

In December 2015 she finished working on a larger than life-sized piece of 3 figures in Kilkenny limestone for one of the UK’s largest trade unions, the GMB.

Mel is happy to consider commissions.

Three Graces by Mel Fraser, contemporary stone sculpture

Three Graces at Doddington Hall 2012, Kilkenny limestone

Cambridge Magazine

Completely self-taught, Cambridge based sculptor Mel Fraser can do mind-bending things with stone and chisel. This piece, below, titled Unity shows three naked figures intricately entwined: perfect in every detail and polished skin-smooth, it’s a woman-made wonder.

Unity bronze by Mel Fraser, contemporary stone sculpture

Unity, bronze edition of 9, 65cm tall

Known for abstracts as well as figurative pieces, Mel is a famous perfectionist, using purity of line and finish to play the loveliest games with light and shadow. She works in every medium from glass-like alabaster, chiselled so thinly you can see your hand through it, to snow-white Carrara marble, opaque save for a delicately drilled lace-effect edge.

Angel Wing by Mel Fraser, contemporary stone sculpture

 Angel Wing XX, Carrara marble, 102 cm tall

With recent commissions including sculptures for a Frank Gehry’s Opus apartment block in Hong Kong and the GMB Union HQ in Euston, Mel continues to push the boundaries of stone-working – and her star continues to rise. You’ll find her work on the Sheridan Russell Gallery stand at the Cambridge Art Fair on the 29th September to the 2nd October 2016.

Richard Chapman and Alice Ryan, September 2016

Nexus, Carrara marble, by Mel Fraser, contemporary stone sculpture

Nexus in the graveyard

Symbiosis with Stone by Mel Fraser

There is nothing greater to hold us in it’s spell. Sculpture has the power to transcend all other art forms, to connect raw emotions to the object before us, revealed and exposed from a silent world, scarred by the violence of it’s birth, a noble stone, evidence of the unyielding power of nature and the mark she has left upon this earth. Great stones hidden beneath or strewn across her surface like pebbles on the shore waiting patiently for the moment of discovery/release. With a fortitude gained through the years, the sculptor can break into these monoliths, their secrets subdued, cloaked in the dusts of time. It is for the sculptor to recognise what can be unearthed: to reveal what beauty of colours and sensuality of form lies within. To stimulate the senses like the capturing of a crystalline burst of light in the blink of an eye that awakens a hazy memory of the electrifying razor’s edge of pure emotion.

And then it starts, with a touch of the sculptor’s hand, ready to meet the challenge; the stone, ready to be carved and hewn, to rise effortlessly, poetically, to reveal her secrets, the tenderness, the beauty of form.

In the creating of a piece of work, the sculptor has to make use of their history of knowledge and intuition and thus armed bring forth an object that can express a multitude of emotions.

So it is with a sixth sense the sculptor is joined with the stone, reaching for perfect symbiosis.

Flusso II, honey alabaster, by Mel Fraser, contemporary stone sculpture

Flusso II, honey alabaster with honey alabaster base, 67x80x20 cm

Mel Fraser contemporary stone sculpture

The Creation of Art by Mel Fraser

It is a hard to give reason to what comes down to the very being of one’s existence, but I’ve been given an opportunity to say a few words about the thoughts behind my work.

To be challenged and challenge, inner contemplation erupts with a force that in many ways can not be explained, becoming amplified a million degrees, from the physical, emotional and spiritual then entwining itself into the ritual that is creativity: ‘The Creation of Art’

It is a human condition we can not separate ourselves from; the urge to express, the curiosity to explore with the need and desire to understand life in all its facets whether it be as creator, observer or facilitator, it is one and the same. Wars have been fought and religious leaders have condemned the magic and mystery that is art. It is a powerful force and works of significant importance have been destroyed throughout the ages through fear, ignorance and knowledge.

It is a bloody war that will never cease and takes no prisoners. From the known to the unknown all are hostage to the furtherance to create to breath life into the inanimate. This is the challenge and the responsibility  for the artist. It is with this responsibility that I undertake to seek  truth in the ‘Thing’ to be created. It is the gathering of knowledge and sensitivity to empathise to look within one’s self to touch beauty and fear and reach into the darkest reassesses of human nature and stand alone in the midst of the battle to find the moment where the silence is given a voice –

‘The Passion’.

The sensation comes and the process begins. To be honest to the thought and meet it face to face one is driven from the concept through an acceleration of bringing solid ideas and ethereal tangents together, striving to convey and reach perfection to the piece in my mind. It is an anomaly: on the one hand one builds the ideas and opens oneself to the senses and gathers from resources of experience and the knowledge, and on the other, the process involves discipline and an almost clinical judgement of material and execution of stripping back the stone combined with a continual analysis of form to reach that magical layer where the inanimate can breath. It does not feel as a completion of a process but a beginning – it has it’s own life. There is a strong symbiotic relationship between pieces, as I usually have several works emerging at once – over a period of time.

The creation of work is my life, my passion, be it sculpture, drawing or the written word. It is a pilgrimage of discovery and dates back to a childhood of quiet solitude. My story books were encyclopaedias of art (yes a little precocious as a 7 year old! ), my eyes opened to the Masters, the likes of Donatello, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raffaello, Bruegel and the torment of Caravaggio and the exquisite yet brutal nature of medieval art. This, you may think places me within a romanticised view of art – but at the age of 11, wandering the streets of Calais, I came upon Rodin’s ‘Burghers of Calais’. It was a pinnacle point, a new phase of my education started and took a quantum leap into a whole new discovery that is still happening to this very day.

This piece first appeared in Art of England, April 2010

Tao, sandstone by Mel Fraser, contemporary stone sculptor

Tao, sandstone

Added to Earth

A response to the sculptures of Mel Fraser, June 2010

by Philip Ward

A girl is born, added to earth,
but the light lightness lightly lands like angel’s wings,
white solid snow gleaming within,
full beating hearts wisping into feathers
into petals that shimmer and pulse

I came into the horizon and it entered me
arrows toward in, the frozen sap, feel
(before it is too late), let the ice-touch imagine
(before we are too late), allow the ship’s deck
to slide like bowing under your pressure feet,
climb into the smooth rigging, caressing to the veiled fingers,
stressing the blood in your heart, making the answer dance
and the calculations of weight and height and depth and breadth
wing into the searing heavens here and at once and
here again once again the answer lingering
where we join unutterable peace

Mel and Venus at on form 14

Mel taking a break alongside Venus at Asthall Manor

Testimonials

I first came across the work of Mel Fraser in her wonderful, partly outdoor studio as part of the Cambridge Open Studios exhibitions which happen every summer. I was instantly captivated by the sensuous curves and highly tactile work that was on show. The full breadth of her work from fully abstract beautifully flowing forms to extraordinarily imposing drawn and sculpted heads which reveal a powerful command and understanding of human nature at its best. The image of quiet contemplation embodied in structures of massive power is unforgettable.

I was fortunate enough to engage with Mel for a short time over a project based upon the human heart. Spending some time with me in our operating theatres Mel developed ideas one of which turned into the most inspirational and exquisite semi-cubist yet still full of flowing lines in Zimbabwe Spring stone which has been admired by colleagues from all over the world. Since that time I have been fortunate to acquire some of Mel’s work. The pieces that I have are a source of constant inspiration and pleasure both tactile and visual.

To my mind, Mel is an artist of huge talent and wonderfully gentle understatement of personality that is rare in this modern world of quick fire living who should be appreciated for the peace that her work can bring to those fortunate enough to possess it.

Francis Wells, cardiac and thoracic surgeon, Papworth Hospital, Cambridge

I have known Mel Fraser and her work since the mid-nineties when I was able to provide her with a source of  springstone  (a Zimbabwean serpentine). I attended a workshop on marble carving given by her and to my mind, Mel’s work in marble, alabaster and springstone ranks among the best stone sculpture now being made in Britain.

Dr Anthony Butterworth PhD, FRS

Mel Fraser, one of the country’s leading stone sculptors, whose beautiful work belies the many hours of hard physical work that she puts into it.

Agenda magazine, July 2010

Cambridge Open Studios in July offers an opportunity for local artists to share their work with new people and returning admirers. For sculptor Mel Fraser it is a wonderful and gratifying chance to observe public reaction to her work. Mel works mostly with stone, favouring the subtle nuances of marble and its relationship with light. Mel’s commissions can be seen in public spaces around Cambridgeshire and she sees her path to becoming a working artist as a destiny, but one that she has no illusions about. “Being an artist brings you great highs and great lows”, says Mel. Many people have supported her since she took the leap 12 years ago and she describes her existence as very much feast and famine. But it is one that she has chosen, or rather been compelled to undertake. Her work is difficult to pin down and categorise into any style more definitive than sculpture. “My influence is my curiosity,” explains Mel whose wealth of varied work can excite, uplift and intrigue. “It is touching to see the excitement that some people get when they see the work” says Mel. “People come back each year!”

From Explorer magazine, July 2010