Fraser Hoffe: playful, vibrant and tactile art
Coffee sacking, string, scrunched-up paper, bamboo, glitter and layers of thick paint are among the materials that Wellington artist Fraser Hoffe uses to create his sculptures, installations and paintings.
“My art is playful, vibrant and tactile,” he says. “There’s a serious side to my work but I like to use humour and colour. People smile when they see my work. I like to describe it as ‘happy art’.”
One of five participating artists
Fraser, who has lived experience of mental illness, is one of five artists participating in the I’m an Artist Campaign happening in Wellington, Hamilton, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Arts Access Aotearoa is organising the campaign with funding from the Ministry of Social Development's Making A Difference Fund. It aims to change attitudes and behaviour towards people with a disability, sensory impairment or mental ill-health.
The campaign also promotes disabled people and those who live with mental ill-health as artists who make great art, often with the support of community-based creative spaces.
Fraser says he is always experimenting and using a range of forms and materials. “Although my work often looks spontaneous and experimental, I consider everything I do and am constantly editing my work. It doesn’t just happen.”
A feature of Fraser’s art is its “touchability”. Layers of paint and Shellac varnish enhance its durability. “I like that people can touch my paintings. They look fragile but they’re actually really strong.”
Fraser recalls that as a child, he always knew he was a creative person and says this was his “reassuring voice”. After school, he did leather work and design before becoming a stand-up comic and writing his own material. At the same time, he was always “making things” to put on his bedroom wall.
Every week day at Vincents or Pablos
Then, finally, in 2009, he found Vincents Art Workshop in Wellington. He goes there every week day except Thursday (a women’s-only day at Vincents), when he goes to Pablos Art Studios. He is also an artist representative on the Vincents committee.
“Before Vincents, I was homeless for about 15 years … living in boarding houses and moving around a lot. Just survival really. Vincents gave me a place to come to every day, and it focused my energy on being creative and making art.
“For me, Vincents and Pablos provide an emotional base. They’re like family, places where I can always go to make art, be with other people and have fun.”
Both Vincents Art Workshop and Pablos Art Studios receive funding from the Ministry of Social Development.
Fraser remembers selling his first art piece for $15 in 2009. Since then, he’s had numerous commissions and solo shows, and participated in group exhibitions.
Exhibitions and commissions
Last year, Fraser received a Changing Minds grant. The resulting work – cloaks and wall-mounted 3D paintings – featured in an exhibition at Studio One in Auckland.
“I learned a lot through that experience,” he recalls. “Things like planning the project, meeting deadlines, transporting the work to and from Auckland, getting myself up there, and making a speech at the opening.”
One recent commission was from CQ Hotels Wellington. Titled Journey, the installation is suspended from the atrium ceiling of the Cuba St hotel and reflects the city’s hills, harbour, winding roads and skyline.
Fraser’s artworks are displayed in various locations in Wellington: for example, a flag painted on a coffee sack features at Havana Coffee Works while one of his cloaks hangs in the dining room of the Wellington Soup Kitchen.
There will be a display of Fraser's work at CQ Hotels Wellington until 13 October. Throughout November, he will have an exhibition, based around an environmental theme, at In Good Company Space on Cuba Street.
“I like to make a point about the environment in an entertaining, optimistic way," he says.
About Vincents Art Workshop and Pablos Art Studios
Vincents Art Workshop was established in 1985 in response to a need that people had to continue artistic self-expression when they left mental health institutions. From the beginning, though, Vincents has had a philosophy of inclusion and everyone in the community is welcome to attend. Vincents provides access to arts and crafts activities, skilled tuition and art materials in a supportive environment. Visit the Vincents website.
Pablos Art Studios uses art and creative exploration to encourage people with lived experience of mental ill-health to transform their lives and re-engage in the wider community. Artists can access quality art opportunities in an environment that acknowledges career, personal and social needs, and encourages connections and a sense of value in the wider community. Visit the Pablos website.