Critics’ Picks

Julie Fragar, Too Much and Not Enough Water Under the Bridge (detail), 2017, oil on paper, 35 x 27".

Julie Fragar, Too Much and Not Enough Water Under the Bridge (detail), 2017, oil on paper, 35 x 27".


Julie Fragar

Sarah Cottier Gallery
23 Roylston St, Paddington
March 15–April 13, 2017

Julie Fragar’s paintings have long documented her intellectual restlessness in thick paint and subdued hues. However, increasingly, her works have taken shape around the imagined narratives of others. In this restrained and absolutely compelling exhibition are seven small oil paintings on paper that were made in response to the artist’s observations of Supreme Court trials in Brisbane, where Fragar currently lives. Each piece, created entirely from memory, reflects on a particular case that she saw unfold over time, and the works’ intimate scale focuses attention not on the sensationalism of the crimes but on the delicacy of each composition, which, through a layered, montage-like effect, pack a lot of visual information. Too Much and Not Enough Water Under the Bridge, 2017, is a highlight; it depicts a bridge in a lush tropical forest with an enormous fish in the water and a distorted, ghostlike portrait suspended in the foreground. While it is impossible to glean a specific story from the work, it nonetheless suggests the artist’s voyeuristic processing of a series of events, with a tinge of sadness and a sense of the grotesque.

Man Tortures Woman in Cheap Motel, 2017, is similarly understated, even if its title is not—a muted off-white portrait of a bald man who stares back at the viewer is overlaid with numerical figures reminiscent of a receipt’s minutiae. All the works here have a sophistication that speaks of an artist at the top of her game, with inventive formal arrangements that seem unburdened by her profound sense of empathy for victims and perpetrators alike.