Mark Francis

Source

1992

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 2083 x 1830 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1992
Reference
T06663

Display caption

Over the past few years, Mark Francis has shifted the focus of his painting to microcosmic and biological imagery. References to spores, cells, sperm, ovae and skin tissue dominate his paintings. This picture belongs to a recent group of works which relate more specifically to genetics and the processes of creation. The photographic origins of the image are evident in the way blurring around the edges of the sperm motif suggest objects moving in and out of focus. However, a counterbalance to the apparent naturalism of the subject is in the controlled patterning across the entire canvas. This inhibits the viewer from reading the image literally, as a view through a microscope.

Gallery label, September 2004

Technique and condition

The oil painting was painted over a period of about two days on a cotton canvas support made and primed by the artist. The artist constructed the strainer himself attaching quarter round beading to his main timber framework to produce a sharp front edge with 40mm deep sides. Onto this he tightly stretched a medium weight cotton duck canvas supplied by Russell and Chapple. To prime it he applied several layers of Spectrum Matt Acrylic Gel Medium which he pushed into the weave of the canvas with the edge of a stiff card. Onto the acrylic sized canvas he applied two coats of white Spectrum Acrylic Primer, sanding the surface between coats and finishing with a light sanding with wet and dry abrasive paper.

This procedure produced a smooth, flat taut white surface suited to his painting process, which involved a great deal of working of the paint on the canvas. In a communication of 1992 the artist describes this in detail: 'The painting is wet into wet. The surface has been covered with a layer of Titanium white, which has been diluted with linseed oil. The soft eliptical forms in Indian Yellow have been added, the black eliptical forms have been added after wiping the concerned areas more or less free of white paint with a soft cloth. The black forms are then applied with a small soft brush. The black paint has been slightly thinned with turps so the forms can be applied evenly. The connecting tail forms are painted with the soft nylon brush. After this has been completed the systematic brushing in both vertical and horizontal strokes begin. There are more horizontal strokes than vertical. Once the required degree of blurring is achieved the eliptical forms have their centres removed by wiping them with a soft cloth which has had linseed oil applied. Once this has been done the whole surface is brushed horizontally to soften the central edges of the forms. The painting is now complete.'

The painting is not framed as the artist feels 'a frame would be too much of an intrusion.'