“Artificial Winter”: An Interview with Ian Francis
Ian Francis has always had a wonderfully serious but almost quiet style in his paintings. They strike you as the moment where a dream begins and wakefulness begins, the sort of moment where you conscioulsy wonder if you are still sleeping or not. I've often thought of the work as cinematic, but hearing Francis describe this new body of work, Artificial Winter, his attention has been drawn toward technology. “I've always loved technology and been fascinated by our relationship with it," Francis notes, "but I’ve found it hard to predict the extent to which it would come to dominate our relationships with each other, our own self-image and our perception of reality in the last ten years." With his new solo show at Corey Helford Gallery opening on October 28, his first US solo show in over 3 yeras, the British painter talks to Juxtapoz about nuance, Twin Peaks, and Yayoi Kusama.
Evan Pricco: You have been in the magazine a few times, and we have followed your career extensively for the last 10 years. The world has changed so much since then, especially politically in our respective countries, and I don't want to go straight into politics in question one, but how does this sort of climate seep into your work?
Ian Francis: It’s interesting, and horrifying. I tend to be drawn to nuances rather than passionate sweeping statements, so I keep trying to see things from alternative perspectives, but I find it hard not to come to the conclusion that it’s pretty bad. It’s difficult to strike a balance between trying to be open to different viewpoints that challenge your own, and standing up for things that matter. I don’t know how you transition from the intense oppositional politics you have at the moment.
It’s interesting as well because, taking the longer perspective… the work I was doing 10 years ago was developed at the tail end of the Bush administration, and many things seemed very dark at the time even if they look pretty tame from this distance. Things can change. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
How did the title, "Artificial Winter," come about?
I think I first heard the phrase ‘artificial winter’ in a science podcast where people were discussing global warming and ways that we might mitigate its impact. It was interesting in the way it was initially meant, but something about the words struck me, and they stayed with me afterwards.
Even though it’s not the way it was meant in its original context, I think it’s the way the words imply a degree of control that’s impossible to have over nature, that can’t exist in the real world. An artificial winter could only really exist in the unreal/non-physical spaces we spend increasing amounts of time in.
There are two things you are talking about in your statement about the show, but both relate to having this fascination with paint and people. I know this sounds simple, but did your love of paint come before your observations of people? Or did one vice push the other?
I’m not sure. When I was young I was always more comfortable working on my own, and I loved painting and drawing. Making pictures always seemed like a great way to try and make sense of the world for me, because it forced me to pay really close attention for a long period of time to the way something was constructed, the way things worked. I think from that perspective, my love of paint probably came before observing people.
If you had to recommend a TV show to us, what would it be?
There are so many great TV shows at the moment, but Twin Peaks: The Return has been my favourite thing in a long time, although I can see why people might not like it.
The best music to paint to?
Hmm… I don’t listen to enough new music lately. I still really like The Antlers to paint to.
The best podcast to listen to right now?
I listen to quite a few politics ones, but I think my favourite podcast is Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review.
Favorite city besides Bristol?
That’s difficult, I’ve really enjoyed lots of different places over the last few years, but Tokyo was probably my favourite!
You have one artist from now or history to share a meal with, you go with...
Yayoi Kusama, it would be great to meet her and also I figure she could get me tickets to see her show.
Ian Francis' Artificial Winter opens on October 28th at Corey Helford Gallery.