Tessa Campbell Fraser (born 1967)
Tessa Campbell Fraser is a British painter and sculptor based in Oxfordshire. Born in Edinburgh, she studied at Chelsea School of Art and afterwards established herself as one of the country’s leading animal artists. She has completed several major life-size, and larger than life, sculptures for clients including the late Queen Elizabeth II, the King of Bahrain, Knuthenborg Safari Park Denmark, William Grant & Son, the Household Cavalry and Sir Jackie Stewart. She has work in private collections around the world including Australia, South Africa, Monaco, and the USA, and has exhibited widely including at the Royal Academy Summer Shows, Sculpture at Goodwood, the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and the Natural History Museum in London where she had a major solo show in 2004.
In 2001, she was elected an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Sculptors and became a Fellow of the Society in 2004.
Campbell Fraser’s work is informed by her travels, notably to Greenland, which inspired a series of paintings and allegorical sculptures exploring the interspecies relationship between man and animal. She Portrayed this in a group of sculptures for her Bishop and Bear series, which raise her concerns for the world in the face of the twin threats of War (and specifically people using religion as a pretext for conflict) and Climate Change (represented by the polar bear). She has been concerned with the effects of Climate Change for over twenty years and her sculptures offer a poignant and beautiful reflection on the symbiosis between man and animal, and how precarious this balance is for both as man encroaches more and more into the wild spaces.
Her latest sculptures have articulated the effects of Climate Change, seen in the fragility of the 42,000 year old frozen foal encased in the Siberian permafrost and only now revealed by the retreating ice of the melting glaciers as a potent and portentous warning; or the empty polar bear skin hung on a peg, entitled ‘I keep thinking he’ll return’. Campbell Fraser’s current solastalgic sculptures are haunting, and eloquent reminders of our ‘One Foot in Eden’ ; of what may be lost if we refuse to recognise our symbiotic and tentacular connections and responsibilities.
Always fascinated by the physicality of substance, texture, form and positive and negative space, she is now exploring this with new, deliberately chosen, natural, sustainable materials such as hemp fabric, wax, latex, leather, plaster, hair and wool. Using these materials, and the haptic techniques of folding, painting, drawing, pouring, melting and pinning, she creates fluid and protean pieces in two-and three-dimensional forms.
This physical exploration of materials shapes her work viscerally and subconsciously through the spontaneity of the creative making process.
As an artist, Campbell Fraser has pushed herself into a sometimes uncomfortable and challenging engagement with herself as nature and animal and she asks us to do the same. Working in this experimental space, Campbell Fraser’s sculptures and paintings have become more abstract and intuitive.
In her current work she focuses on the sperm whale as the most likely mammal with whom man could have an interspecies collaboration. She explores the whale’s ‘vocal’ connections (coda clicks), their complex social lives, their expressions of love, suffering and compassion as a way to connect them to us. She weaves artistic and scientific strands that do not seek to explain the whale, but to convey the interconnections and mysteries of the natural world and our need to protect it.
Campbell Fraser further investigates this sense of awe and mystery by interpreting her responses to the natural earth, -volcanoes and glaciers. She interconnects and delves into the idea of the ‘breath’ of these phenomena which link to the breath of every living creature and to the Gaia Hypothesis. She will evoke her relationship with ‘remote’, ineffable land- and seascapes, which lead us beyond ourselves to ‘something greater than’ ourselves – the ‘sense sublime of something far more deeply interfused’. Her work encompasses the Romantic concept of the Sublime, the belief that, ‘every Person upon seeing a grand Object is affected with something which as it were extends ones very being and expands it to a kind of Immensity’. By doing so, Campbell Fraser reinvigorates the ideas of the Romantics for a modern audience, taking the viewer beyond the ‘material world’ (as seen as a resource) to see ‘value’ beyond the material sense.
Contemporary Art Academy 2023
The Essential School of Painting.
Contemporary Fine Art Practice 2022-23
Cecil Graves, Florence 1989
Chelsea, School of Art and design. 1986-88