Time and space become abstracted as UK based artist, Ian Francis, creates his paintings. Ian’s newest solo exhibition, “Artificial Winter”, deals with the ideas of control and power in a technology filled world. He creates distorted versions of reality by painting delicate images and continuing to layer them with more paint – often resulting in a translucent effect. To view his beautifully crafted versions of reality in “Artificial Winter”, one can visit the the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles where his work is on display until November 25.
IAN FRANCIS INTERVIEW
TESS (HIGHLARK): Hi Ian, it’s very exciting to hear that your new solo exhibition, “Artificial Winter,” will be premiering this month! What inspired you to choose “Artificial Winter” as the title?
IAN FRANCIS: I first heard the phrase on a science podcast a while back, where people were discussing the impact of climate change and steps that could theoretically be taken to mitigate its effects. It was interesting in its own right, but something about the phrase stuck with me beyond its original context. I think it’s the impossibility of controlling the environment and the natural cycle of things to that extent, the way that an idea like this could only really exist in a separate, isolated, controlled bubble.
TESS: You exhibit a fascination with media and technology, yet you chose to communicate your ideas through images on birch panel. Why do you chose to use birch panel rather than something more digital such as photography or film?
IAN: I really like the interplay between things that are very transient, and things that have been around forever. Painting physically, by hand, in a fairly traditional way that’s not so different from how humans have been making paintings for thousands of years, feels like the most natural way to try and capture the fleeting nature of the new present. A large part of my inspiration comes from the constant stream of images you see daily on the internet, and painting forces me to slow down and pay attention to these images, even though they can and will be replicated perfectly millions of times by computers almost instantaneously.
TESS: Although a lot of your work illustrates violence, it does not appear gruesome, but rather natural. What compels you to depict violent scenes in a peaceful way?
IAN: I think for me it really started with the news coverage of 9/11 and the subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. I remember watching the Reuters live feeds of the wars over the internet, which seems like a fairly standard thing to do now, but was really strange at the time. I was really struck by the way the scale of the violence and its distance from my day to day experience of the world made it hard to really know how to react to it, it became almost an abstract concept despite being terribly real. For me, it’s about the sense of powerlessness that comes from seeing these abstract threats on a daily basis but having little or no meaningful course of action to take in response.
TESS: You manage to depict both abstract and figurative elements in your paintings, without one overpowering the other. How do you decide the balance between the two styles?
IAN: It’s always a struggle, but it’s a struggle I really enjoy in painting. I find it can be hard to let go, but there’s something very cathartic about obliterating detail you’ve spent hours carefully painting. There’s also something nice about delicately crafting something over swathes of paint that have been applied much more loosely. I like the play between the two, and it’s something I want to push further in the future.
I think for me finding the balance is often about finding how much I can remove whilst still creating the sense of place or relationship between figures that I’m looking for.
TESS: The paintings in “Artificial Winter” have a recurring color palette that mainly includes dark tones. What draws you toward using darker colors, rather than bright ones.
IAN:I like the idea of these bright unreal places existing as abstract constructs in a void. Recently I’ve been really interested in images of stage plays and theatre productions, I love the way they suggest a setting that only really exists within a pool of light, surrounded by darkness. For a long time I’ve also really liked the architecture of levels in 3D computer games, for a similar reason – it’s great to pull a camera back through the walls to see how the whole thing is made, how it exists as a construction in a void.
TESS: You create work that is socially conscious – critiquing and celebrating “a media-inundated age.” Has painting always been your preferred method for conveying these ideas?
IAN: Yes, although I used to work much differently – I used to paint and draw on odd scraps of paper, card or canvas and then scan everything in and collage everything together in Photoshop. This is where I really became interested in the idea of building up images through layers, and when I switched over to making paintings on canvas it was a huge influence on my process.
TESS: Many of your paintings include elements of transparency when depicting people – what is the significance of the transparency?
IAN: I realized a few years ago that what I was really interested in was painting the screen images of people, rather than actual flesh & blood people. I love the ephemeral quality of these images, their impermanence, the way they’re only created through light, and the way glitches can break the images apart.