Contemporaries caught up with Joanna Braithwaite and Neil Frazer ahead of our upcoming evening at their Leichhardt studios. The two New Zealand expats share a home, which stretches back behind an unassuming street-frontage on Parramatta Road, but their workspaces are decidedly separate. The front room at street level has been converted into a martial arts studio where Frazer teaches karate. From there, the home expands back into a vast living room and industrial kitchen, with windows that take in a broad vista over Leichhardt and beyond.

Down the stairs is Frazer’s studio, a ground level space lit by a bank of large frosted windows that open out onto a quiet back alley. Jo’s studio is on the top floor, accessed via a stairwell that houses an assortment of plants and greenery. This space is smaller but bright and airy, and surprisingly peaceful given the traffic on Parramatta Road below.

The size, shape and atmosphere of a studio can have an immense impact on the sort of work produced within it. Ahead of our exclusive open studios event, Jo and Frazer shared some stories about the studio spaces they have inhabited over the years: the good, the bad, and the bizarre.

Jo and Frazer at their Leichhardt home with their dog Brains.

The worst studios

Jo: We once rented studios in a building in Christchurch where a Pentecostal church rented the third space. There would be screaming kids running up and down the stairs and peeking into the keyholes of our studios, and one time the pastor said that the devil walked in Frazer’s shoes.

 Frazer: One of Jo’s studios was above a bank, with no water or toilet, and street kids got in one night and spray-painted the walls. It had a creepy vibe.

Sharing isn’t always caring

Jo: We shared a studio once, it was a huge warehouse space with a wall separating us, but it didn’t reach to the ceiling. Frazer was painting with tussocks he had collected, and it made this really loud ‘whooshing’ sound, and he had blues music blaring. I couldn’t stand it.

The scale of that place had the biggest impact – it was 4000 square feet, and you could put up an entire big show’s worth of work and see it all at once. But in winter in Christchurch, a space that size was impossible to heat. We’d have all these bar heaters going, and I still remember the toxic smell of paint heating up.

The best studios

Frazer: I did a residency at The Dunmoochin Foundation – set up by Clifton Pugh – through the Victorian College of the Arts, near where Rick Amor has his studio. We had just arrived in Australia from New Zealand and there were kangaroos and other wildlife all around. It was amazing. But I think this current studio is my favourite.

Jo once rented an old Victorian photographer’s studio.

Jo: That was great, although a tenant upstairs took poison and died.

I really like my current studio, I love the vibe, but it’s a bit too small. Sometimes I dream about my old studios. Or if I can’t sleep, I go through and picture them in my mind.

Joanna’s studio

DSC_0191Frazer’s studio

Meet  Joanna and Frazer and explore their creative studios at the Contemporaries private viewing, Wednesday 18 May, 2016. Join Contemporaries to receive your invitation to this exclusive event.

Joanna Braithwaite has been exhibiting for nearly 30 years throughout New Zealand and Australia, and is known for her incisive, darkly humourous paintings that explore relationships between humans and animals. Her work was the subject of the 2011 exhibition Significant Others at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery. She has been shortlisted for many awards including the Archibald Prize, the Sulman Prize and the Portia Geach Memorial Award. Jo is represented by Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney; Bowen Galleries, Wellington and Milford Galleries, Queenstown.

Auckland Art Fair
25-29 May 2016
Bowen Galleries

Solo exhibition
1-25 September 2016
Martin Browne Contemporary

Frazer is best known for his bold, large scale paintings of majestic mountains, soaring cliffs and roaring seas, in which the energetic act of painting leaves its distinct mark in rugged surfaces and dense paintwork. Frazer has been a finalist in the Wynne Prize, awarded the Member’s Choice Award in the Tattersalls Art Prize, and won the People’s Choice Award in the Fleurieu Art Prize. He is represented by Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney; Philip Bacon Galleries, Brisbane; Bowen Galleries, Wellington and Milford Galleries, Dunedin.

Solo exhibition
9 June – 3 July 2016
Martin Browne Contemporary