Artist biography

Irish painter. He studied at St. Martin's School of Art (1980–85) and Chelsea School of Art (1985–6). Around 1989 his early energetic, abstract landscape style became more overtly abstract. He adopted a dry-brushing technique, comparable to that developed by Gerhard Richter, to produce soft, smooth, ‘photographic' and seductive surfaces, featuring microscopic imagery. He developed this approach throughout the 1990s, his oil paintings lacking traces of artistic activity, giving a ‘found', depersonalised quality. Such effects suggest a disturbing, alienating connection between abstraction and technology; many of his paintings are created with a palette reduced to black and white. Source (1992; London, Tate) shows a blurred, microscopic view of sperm-like objects, characteristic of the type of scientific imagery he explored. The titles he gives to these works reflect both biological and mechanical processes. From 1994 he frequently used the motif of the black dot; in Thallophyte (1999; see 2000 exh. cat.) black dots like beads on a cord swirl around a painterly red ground. Here we can see a dialogue between the gestural abstract and microscopic imagery, the mystery of each creating a mutual metaphor; microscopism as abstraction, abstraction as microscopism. Francis is strongly influenced by his collection of images from a variety of scientific fields, including funghi, fauna, insects, geology, astronomy and medicine. In 1997 he collaborated with the conceptual artist Nicky Hirst on a project backed by the Public Art Development Trust, displaying a number of Cibachrome images in King's College Hospital, Dulwich.

Bibliography
Mark Francis: Elements (exh. cat., essay A. Cross, Milton Keynes, Gal., 2000)

JOHN-PAUL STONARD
10 December 2000

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