Born in Northern Ireland in 1962, Mark Francis is one of the best-known British painters of the present day - for good reason. His paintings achieve an enormous radiance and expressiveness although they do not seem to have a concrete motif. On intensely luminous surfaces he shows concentrated structures, grids and formations; their effect is intensified by color contrasts and blurring.
On some canvases, the blurred structures appear like glowing light. The attractiveness of the works comes on one hand from this intense effect. On the other hand, the paintings often evoke associations that are less concrete and demand to be felt. When describing the works, terms such as network, speed or sound often come up. Mark Francis supports this perspective through his titles. 'Sound Echo', 'Trembler' or 'Veil' occasionally refer to the starting point of the respective work.
Since his school days, Francis has been interested in scientific as well as artistic topics. Today, this intersection forms the basis of his work: He no longer has to choose between science and art; he combines the two. In the 1990s, a look into the electron microscope granted him access to a world that is always present but never visible, a world structured by grids, crystallizations, or networks. These systems are recorded, described and evaluated scientifically. Francis goes a step further by detaching the systems from their context and making them visible in their formative powers. Systems such as fungal webs, sperm or crystals are the starting point of his paintings, however the point is not to reproduce said systems recognizably. They act only as the starting point, from which the painterly process takes over with all the associated material possibilities and limitations. In the end, the painting retains the spirit of its origin as a basis, but has completely detached itself from it. Natural science may be the starting point, but as the work begins, art takes over the further narrative.
More recently, Mark Francis has been transforming invisible, sometimes even inaudible sound into visible impulses. This does not mean, however, that his paintings portray a certain type of music. Through the artistic process, an abstract idea of sound and rhythm becomes visible. Movement and vibration are immediately tangible, without associations being concrete.
Mark Francis sees such structures and grids everywhere. Turning his gaze from the microcosm to the macrocosm, chaos and order are present for him in city maps, astronomical formations or meshes. Where science informs, his art opens the view to the incomprehensible. In doing so, he fulfills an expectation that has been placed on art since the early Middle Ages: To open a window to a world beyond reality. Constellations become spaces of imagination and networks become lines of communication.
That's why Francis' works can literally be seen as abstract. The verb 'abstrahere' in Latin means to subtract, to take away. Where non-objective art no longer has a motif, the echo of the initial idea remains perceptible in Francis' abstract motifs. This explains the attraction that the paintings exert. The observer is not sure about what they see, but they are sure that they might find something there. Mark Francis supports such associations. Just as his path from inspiration to abstraction paradoxically leads from the invisible to the visible, the observer is just as free to integrate the images into his or her imaginary world.
As easy and natural as this process sounds, Francis proceeds in an elaborate and planned manner: The preparation of a painting sometimes takes days to weeks. In addition to the basic concept and the examination of inspiration, it is above all the work with the canvas that must be well prepared. Since he paints alla prima, i.e. wet in wet, it is decisive for the effect and expression of the respective work whether the surface of the canvas is primed or not, how smooth the painting surface will be, how the application of paint will be controlled, etc. The concept exists beforehand, the further development and the motif itself emerge in the painterly process. The fundamental relationship between order and chaos, between plan and spontaneity, between contrast and color makes Mark Francis paintings so remarkable.