On the cover: ‘Two People Go On Holiday Forever’ by Ian Francis
What was behind the creation of ‘Two People Go On Holiday Forever’?
I’ve always been fascinated with that kind of seaside, holiday imagery. There’s something almost haunting about these images – all of them very similar, the same spot, the same smile, etc, so I played on that with the anonymity of the two characters in the piece. There’s a slightly morbid side to the piece too. While it wasn’t about one specific news story, there were a lot of stories about people going on holiday and being killed or dying when I was painting and they fed into it. I’m reluctant to ever say specifically what any of my pictures are about, but those stories were part of that time. It’s not all dark though – there are also those ice creamy colours and the lightness and joy of holidays in there, so you can read into it what you like.
You have talked about how the internet influences your work – can you expand on that?
Like most people I’m bombarded with thousands of images every day on the internet, and this overload is still relatively new to people. But what I find fascinating is the speed with which people now flick from one subject or image to another – often from very serious subjects to frivolous ones. So you’ll be reading about atrocities in Syria and your eyes will be drawn to a video of a cat playing a piano. It’s not that I believe you should only be reading about Syria and you shouldn’t be entertained by videos of cats playing pianos but it’s the juxtaposition of images that I find fascinating, the absence of any walls between the two and I try to reflect that in my work.
Although your references are very modern you still use very traditional techniques and materials…
That’s true, but I don’t think that just because you’re fascinated by modernity, that you have no interest in the past. For me, the opposite is true. While I am obsessed with the ‘right now’, my interest is in documenting it as a moment in history and I do that through traditional forms. People have been painting for such a long period of time – you have pictures from El Castillo that are 40,000 years old – and I love using something with such tradition to create something about things in 2013. I also like the process of making something that is imperfect and unique by making things by hand.
What’s your view on the current art scene?
I’m not sure I’m the best person to ask as I feel quite removed from any ‘scene’. But one thing I find liberating about the internet is that more and more people are discovering that they like artwork again. A lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about art and feel that they don’t get it. The primary news sources play into that, so most stories about art tend to either be people that do photo-realistic paintings in a slightly obsessive way, which people can say ‘wow’ about, or it’ll be about something basically ridiculous – a pile of bricks in the corner of a gallery that sold for £40 million – which people can tut and shake their heads about. They tend to be the main cultural touchstones of art. I think, ultimately, people like pictures and the internet makes it easier for people to discover pictures. This doesn’t tend to be represented in public art – which tends to be sculpture-based and plays into the old prejudices.
There’s a lot of talk about the dangers of cutting funding to the arts – do you feel that there’s a risk of a cultural brain drain from countries undergoing austerity?
For me art has always been a black and white business. I work mostly with galleries and sell directly through them, so I haven’t ever received any funding from the government. Would it be nice? Yes, but I’m sure you’d like it if there was governmental funding for quarterly Slow Journalism magazines – doesn’t mean it’s going to happen…
Ian Francis’s solo show opens at Joshua Liner Gallery in New York in April. You can see more of his work at www.ifrancis.co.uk.
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