Archie Franks’ vivid and gestural painting combines an abstract treatment of pigment, texture and a heightened use of color with dramatic and dynamic line. Within this approach, Franks connects his practice to the realm of the imaginary and dream world: “Memory, decadence and a dream like unreality are core recurring themes in the work, as is a touch of humour and a touch of the gothic.”
In compressed yet energetic works, there is a luxurious heaviness in the application of paint, and the mark of the artist is visible. Landscapes and still life subjects are imbued with a magical sense of animism. This sensibility is something Franks shares with the work of School of Paris painter Chaim Soutine, particularly in the talent for constructing spaces of ordinary subjects with an intensity of feeling and expression.
Like Soutine, Franks’ work while resolutely of his time has an important connection to the study of old masters. The artist points to the work of Caravaggio, in particular Still Life with Baskets of Fruit, noting his fascination with the way in which the basket seems to fall out of the painting into the viewer’s space.
Beyond such masterly physicality, Franks also notes another formative historic work with an unexpectedly different style ⎯ that of Fragonard’s Le Petite Parc. In this piece, it is the almost mystical atmosphere that influences Franks, a sensibility he wishes to evoke in his work: “My artistic vision is to create works that are at once instantly compelling and yet hold your attention, that go deeper than their initial source image. I want to immerse the viewer within a particular kind of British consumer and leisure culture whilst also alluding to painting history and a particular lineage of painters.”
Throughout the history of art, the genres of landscape and still life painting have held a central role as sites for artistic experimentation. Franks’ work expresses this tradition and his visionary and skilful admixture of contemporary details, popular culture motifs, historic canons, the mundane and the painterly translate into a powerful body of work that has an alluring sense of physicality and otherworldliness.
Rosa JH Berland