Residency : Fraser Ross - August, 2012

Fraser Ross is an artist and designer based in Glasgow. His work his inspired by the unique plant life found only in Scotland, investigating human interaction through shape changing projects that explore and subvert the senses.

During his residency, Fraser created a chemistry lab of glass containers where tight clusters of matter gather and chase when a magnet is applied to their surface. These objects appear straightforwardly spectacular, in the way that they delight, intrigue and invite further investigation; yet their function remains conceptually elusive.

Fraser’s practice holds a great significance on design; in particular, the pursuit of function in formal terms of object specification, manifested by a person, intended to accomplish something. His combinations of paint, oil, magnetic liquids and water trigger strange and sublime chemical reactions. Collectively, the residency project appears as an arrested natural process of potential action. It signifies the organic processes that intrigue the artist but with the work itself operating as a scientific experiment, in which the viewer/participator is cast as the test. We caught up with Fraser at the end of his residency to find out more…

Can you describe what you’ve been working on during the residency?

“I’ve been using the residency to make objects and to keep making mistakes until I get it right. I haven’t made an actual final product yet and I am still looking for a solution and have a lot of ideas. I have spent a lot of the time thinking, what of this, what of that, exploring; my goal wasn’t to have a final product but undertake a period of research. I have been working with a combination of liquids and solids, bringing order to chaos through function.”

How did working in Project Ability affect this research?

“I have been influenced by what I see here and what I hear. I don’t have the wording yet for the product but I look around and there are so many people applying themselves to painting, and they are so focused. When I first arrived, there was a whole load of paints lined up over there, with the coloured liquid in rows and artists arrive, choose a colour, and utilise it to create something. The starting point of the project was looking closely at the environment around the residency space and the rows of paint tubs, liquids, paintbrushes inspired the early stages.

The work space you have created resembles a chemistry lab, can you tell me more about these ‘experiments’?

“This, for example, is magnetic fluid, if you apply a magnet to it, you can manipulate the shape; it is about asserting an order over something - even if that only lasts for a brief second. I am drawn to organic shapes that reflect processes seen in nature and the idea behind everything is that ‘nature is manufacture’. Firstly you need an action to stimulate the object, make it perform its ‘function’ through different components. It is about looking at how humans interact with objects. I’m not trying to resemble the tree, like my last projects; instead it is an attempt at stripping back the layers to reveal the origins of things. The laboratory is where things originate from, or are discovered, and I am demonstrating the breakdown of that encounter. “

Have you had interest from Project Ability artists?

“I am used to working on my own; the problem there is that you can get far too close to the project. Everyone walking past sees something different and when I explain in 30 words what it is all about, it is enlightening to hear their alternative take on it. That is the great thing about working here, with artists who have so many different disciplines, practices, methods of working, thought processes - they create the product for you through different viewpoints and it’s that interaction I have used to shape this project.”

Function is very important to your practice, what is it you want the objects to do?

“I often find myself asking myself why it always has to have a function. I have used these materials, test-tube growing almost, in a desire to make a function but I am unsure of what that is yet.  I aim to evoke emotion and design is always at the core of that and I guess that is where function comes into it. When I start working like this, it usually takes 6 months to fully realise a project, but I just make until the light goes on, the bell starts ringing and you get somewhere. It is also about an encounter, oil and water don’t mix but when you interact with the surface, they do for a brief moment. I am drawn to the concept that human interaction causes the function, it is the stimulus.”

Where is the project going from here?

“I want to create something large scale for the exhibition, the best way to tackle it is to create an installation that people can play with or interact with. I am looking at making one of these smaller objects wall-expansive, big enough that people can muck around with, change the shape and when you walk away your imprint disappears. At the moment everything exists in miniature pieces, it has helped to solidify my practice and I have enjoyed experimenting with colour within the containers. I have this object that you would usually find in the chemistry lab to test magnet strength but I want to step away from creating things that inspire play, I wish to create something more complex, progressing to the way organisms grow and through further investigation, understand the theory of function itself.”

In transporting his work from idea to reality, Fraser makes redundant objects come to life by human interaction. By exploring the transformative potential of the imagination and the fragility of human endeavour, he creates themes that effectively encapsulate the artist and viewer immensely. Fraser’s final product will be exhibited in the residency group show in 2013.