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The Illuminating Art of Egg Tempera

How Scottish painter Colin Fraser revived this ancient art

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“Critics and curators want to educate people, but art is not about educating people, it’s about touching them at an emotional level.”
—Colin Fraser

Acclaimed Scottish egg tempera painter Colin Fraser moved to his Swedish home by the sea many years ago, but it was only recently that he decided to paint it.

“However beautiful something is; it has to mean something to me,” Fraser says.

Contemporary egg tempera painter Colin Fraser. His works have been exhibited internationally in London, New York, and Glasgow. In Toronto, he is represented by the Mira Goddard Gallery.

When looking at the finished painting, he realized that he had represented himself in the landscape—his journey of moving to Sweden, getting married, and making his home there.

“Those feelings were in that landscape, and it clearly came across to people,” Fraser says.

One morning, a local couple noticed his painting at the art gallery where it was being exhibited.

“They were standing in front of the landscape, both in tears. They just told me what this place had meant to them,” Fraser says. The couple then bought the painting.

An endless moment

Fraser fondly remembers the first time he was struck by the beauty of a painting. He was at the National Museum in Amsterdam and saw Vermeer’s work The Milkmaid.

The Milkmaid by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer impressed Fraser with its beauty when he first saw it in Amsterdam.

“It hung on a wall more or less on its own for the simple reason that you couldn’t hang anything else anywhere near it. It blew everything else away. It was just incredible,” Fraser says.

Fraser says that Vermeer’s contemporaries, who painted in a similar style and genre, were churning out technical works, focusing on surface beauty and accuracy.

“Vermeer’s painting took it to a completely different level of expression, grace, and beauty by using paint differently,” he says.

These days, Fraser feels that contemporary trends are steering people down a limited road of artistic expression.

On the one hand, there are those who believe that art should provoke a jarring intellectual response in people. “Critics and curators want to educate people, but art is not about educating people,” he says. “It’s about touching them at an emotional level.”

On the other hand are artists who produce photorealistic paintings that pursue superficial accuracy but lack meaning. “The problem is that there’s no life in it. They’re so concerned with the process that the painting is stone-dead. There’s no expression,” Fraser says.

His paintings, however, don’t try to be photographic snapshots of a fleeting moment. Instead, they lock the viewer in a moment that never ends.

Fraser’s painting Westerly, presented at the 2022 Exhibition at Catto Gallery in London, England.

It’s easy to see this in Fraser’s painting, Westerly. The wind gives life to the shirt blowing on the chair; you can feel the sun’s warmth and feel the breeze on your skin. A hint of loneliness or longing freezes you and keeps you where you are. The experience only stops when you look away.

Order the Magnifissance print edition to read the full story.

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 116

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Inspired for a Beautiful Life

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