David Frazer's 'Broken House'

After the sun goes down, David Frazer heads out for a long walk. He crosses wide roads, eying buildings which stare back — alert, enigmatic and empty. Beneath a broad moon, houses, shops, public toilets, factories, petrol stations and sheds pulsate with the promise and demise of what Australian poet Henry Lawson designated the space between “city proper” and “bush”. 

In this suite of etchings titled ‘Broken Home’, the world-renowned printmaker captures seven buildings and one forest. Each building appears abandoned, a stage set that Frazer treats as a dramatic lead, his final act a landscape called ‘The Path’. Frazer is among Australia’s most esteemed printmakers, having won People’s Choice Award at the Australian Print Triennial, Banyule Works on Paper Award and the Burnie Print Prize.


David Frazer - 'Broken Home'


David Frazer - 'Septic'


Built Beauty

Liminal urban zones repeat throughout Australian art — Jeffrey Smart’s empty highways, John Brack’s sepia-toned neighbourhoods and Howard Arkley’s technicolour houses. They speak to our culture’s ambivalent relationship with suburbia, what cultural critic Robert Wood has characterised as an “absent centre that becomes a calcified assumption”.


Clockwise from top: John Brack's 'Subdivision'; Jeffrey Smart's 'Cahill Expressway' and Howard Arkley's 'Well situated home', three visions of Australian suburbia.



David Frazer - 'The Shop'


The suburbs birthed Dame Edna Everage, Kath and Kim, Masterchef, Cloud Street and The Slap. It’s Ania Walwicz’s poetry, which reads “Acres of suburbs watching the telly. You bore me. Freckle silly children”. It’s home to the Sprawl — an Australian sensibility rooted in an easiness (“how ya goin”), generosity (lawnmowers shared between neighbours), inventiveness (the tyre swan), approximation (“about right”), luck and frugality. It’s where Frazer takes his walk.


David Frazer - 'The Factory'


David Frazer - 'The Memorial'


A Possibility that Never Really Was 

‘Broken House’ is melancholic. Under Frazer’s hand, these houses evoke rural isolation and urban decline, states which coalesce in the empty streets of whatever outer-bounds he wanders. The effect, however, is not dreary — themes of abandonment and longing are subverted by mystery, eccentricity and hope.

In ‘Memorial’ (above), a cow stands atop a petrol station roof, surveying the land like an explorer reaching her summit. ‘The Shed’ (below), in contrast to its proletariat subject, invokes the sublime. Each work is intricate and small, intimate in a way deserted spaces are typically not. 


David Frazer - 'The Shed' 


David Frazer - 'Broken Window'


Last is ‘The Path’. Gone are the monochromatic buildings; in place a dirt road splits a verdant forest, morning light in the air. Frazer has reached the end of his walk. Soon, the town’s occupants will return, crossing grassy plains to turn on their lights, open their blinds and start their days. Life will resume. 


David Frazer - 'The Path'

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