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EXCLUSIVE: Q & A With Musician Turned Abstract Painter, Justine Frischmann

The former Elastica front woman is now exhibiting her abstract paintings nationally

By: Ashley Baylen
Published: February 11th, 2013 in Culture » Art » Interviews
Justine Frischmann
Pink Grid Destroyed

London-born, Justine Frischmann, was first introduced to the world as the lead singer and writer of 90’s rock band, Elastica. Now, exactly 20 years since her first hit single ‘Stutter’ hit the airwaves, Frischmann has re-emerged as an abstract painter, exhibiting nationally.

Frischmann has a degree in Architecture from University of College London, studied Contemplative Art at Naropa University, and Fine Art at the San Francisco Art Institute. She was a presenter and writer on the “South Bank Show”, the U.K.’s oldest and most respected Arts program, and has presented programs on art, music, and architecture for BBC TV, BBC World TV (Arts), and BBC Radio 6. She has written about art and culture for magazines such as ID and The Face (UK), and was a judge for the 2003 Stirling Prize for architecture.

In 2012, Frischmann’s work was shortlisted for the UK’s Marmite Prize for painting, and she has been included in 1000 Living Painters. She is currently showing at Unspeakable Projects and The Berkley Arts Centre in the San Francisco Bay area.

We got a chance to catch up with her to discuss Elastica, her artistic inspirations, upcoming exhibitions, and how Judaism plays into her life.

ASHLEY BAYLEN (AB): Prior to pursuing visual arts full-time, the world came to know you as Elastica’s front woman. What many people don’t know is that you originally studied architecture. Did you initially want to be an architect when you grew up?

JUSTINE FRISCHMANN (JF): I was always fascinated by architecture and interior spaces but I had really wanted to study art. My parents wanted me to have what they considered a more serious degree and persuaded me to study architecture instead.

AB:While studying architecture, you met Brett Anderson who later became your band mate in your first band, Suede. Why did you decide to ditch architecture for music?

JF: Britain at that time was in the middle of backlash against interesting architecture, Prince Charles was spear -heading a Neo- Classicist revival and even the Bartlett where Brett and I were studying was in a state of chaos. Music seemed much more interesting and vibrant and it was where our attention naturally gravitated. Our studies seemed like the day job but music was what really consumed us.

AB: After leaving Suede, you founded Elastica in the early 90’s. After an incredibly successful run- and some of the best rock songs of the decade- you decided to break up. Do you ever regret disbanding?

JF: No, I really don’t. In many ways, I regret not disbanding after the first album and moving over to painting earlier. But I suppose it’s easy to see what I “should” have done with the benefit of hindsight. Elastica was a one-album project. The dynamic and personalities in the band were too unstable and volatile to keep it together. But at the time it felt like there was a lot of pressure to just keep going and make another record no matter what.

AB: Over the last decade, you have dedicated yourself to visual arts, beginning with a move to Boulder in 2005 to study at Naropa University. Why did you choose to obtain a formal arts education as opposed to just buying a canvas and paint?

JF: I wanted the structure and community that studying at a University provides. And I wanted to get out of London and try living in the US.

AB: Naropa University is a Buddhist-inspired liberal arts college. Why did you choose to study there?

JF: I don’t think of myself as a Buddhist but I learned to meditate in my early twenties and I wanted to expand my practice and be around teachers who were happy to describe themselves as being on a spiritual path. I thought it would be interesting to look at the creative process from a contemplative point of view.

Catch the second half of our interview with Justine on page 2.

Related articles: Justine Frischmann, Elastica, Abstract Painting, San Fransisco, Music, Rock, Jewish, Blur, Suede, Interview
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