The lines and crescents that weave themselves across a strangers face; a relief map of the variable wealth and poverty of a single life. The perfect spheres of teardrops hang, from grief or fatigue, in the veined corner of an eye with a tender gravity that one has no option but to empathetically consume them. He sits opposite me on the train back from Anthony Francis’ London studio and shifts awkwardly, as do I, as he realises I am staring at him. I turn my gaze out of the trembling carriage and see the lattice of overhead wires that make incisions in the sky yet that entangle estranged locations, allow separated spaces to commune.
The threads of oil paint upon Francis’ canvases are a biopsy, a cartography of communication and information systems; forms entangled upon forms, spiraling, cascading, dripping, and then, stopping… caesuras in the otherwise indefatigable speed. A breath, akin to Manzoni’s fiati d’artista, is taken in relief when the visual plane is opened up by the artist’s use of a light spray-paint, by a wash of white, or a serene blue or even a rip, a cut, a hole in the plastic, that allows a reprieve for the eyes before once again the rhythm of the paint takes him into a melee of colour and texture. The spectral opera of colour and texture is exaggerated by a modern chia scuro of the pieces; the single directional sprays of white and black, creating an internal light source that allows the forms within the paintings to resonate through shadows and light again adding to an extraordinary depth of field.
I am unsure whether it is the artist that controls the paint or the paint, the artist. There is a feeling that an ongoing conversation is had between Francis and his paint, sometimes the materials obeying the grids, the clouds, the containment and delineation of his will and at other times the incidentals and accidentals of the paint driving him towards another movement, other than that he had originally intended. Whatever the balance of power, a harmony occurs, a natural abstraction, like Pollock said;
“My concern is with the rhythms of nature… I work inside out, like nature.”
Quoted in Leonhard Emmerling, Jackson Pollock: 1912-1956, Taschen, 2003, p. 48
Through a union of nature and man, accident and intent, paint and plastic, an irreducible presence is achieved: a layered presence of an imminent intrusion (through the sculptural silicone induced oil paint) and the vast depth of field that one falls prey to (cf. falls in love with).
And whilst this colourful cacophony plays upon our senses, fractures occur, splits, rips, pockets, holes and voids. It is rather disappearance that is fundamental to the almost ephemeral processes Francis undertakes to create his work. Holes punctured into the skin of “Bucci”, eloquently and humorously acting out their Italian directive, and introducing an aesthetic reminiscent to the 1960s Volume Moduli Sfasati of Dadamaino (an Arte Povera pioneer). The veil is rended, a reality is achieved.