Meet the artist: Archie Franks
“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.” - Archie Franks.
Born in 1986, Archie Franks currently resides and works in London. He received his education at both City & Guilds London Art School and the Royal Academy Schools. Franks typically works in oils and pastels, applying his chosen media in a variety of ways which result in artworks which are complex in texture and deeply atmospheric. In some works, oil paint is glided thickly along the canvas, in others, paint is dryly pulled across the surface to create scratchy, immediate marks. In Out (2022), thinly-applied oil paint creates a ghostly feel.
41 cm X 65 cm
In an interview on the West Dean College website (where the artist is a tutor), Franks described his chosen subject matter, “I use imagery from pop culture, leisure and consumer culture and my own everyday experiences and history”. Nostalgia, in particular, is of special interest to the artist, who has been drawn on multiple occasions to the image of traditional sweet shops. In A Delight in Every Bite (2021), the artist captures the nostalgia of funfairs, depicting a fast food van illuminated in the dark.
A Delight in Every Bite
41 x 61 cm
While Franks’ subject matter may be contemporary - plastic-packaged confectionery from modern supermarkets, for example, or electric fairground rides - he manages to lend it a historical grandeur by incorporating “the grand eras of art history, such as the baroque and rococo’ into his styling. Punch and Judy (2022) is a perfect example of this, capturing the iconic British puppets which has been a staple of sea-side entertainment since the 1820s.
Punch and Judy
46 x 61 cm
Immediately after studying, Franks was showing huge promise that saw him gain a coveted spot in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries exhibition in 2013. He has had solo shows in Aleph Contemporary and has exhibited in several other galleries based in the capital since 2014.
Impressive paintings of the past have formed lasting impacts on Franks’ compositions. One work which the artist has previously mentioned has had a huge influence on his practice is Caravaggio’s Still Life with Basket of Fruit (c. 1599) which Franks praised: “I love the way the basket … appears to fall out of the painting and invade your space, modern day advertising seems to do something similar.” Lending consumer-culture products an art historical air is typical of Franks, and in Waitrose Flat Peaches (2022) we see how the edible item is made noble, powerful in its compositional domination of an otherwise minimal composition and “appears to fall out of the painting”.
Waitrose Flat Peaches
31 x 46 cm
Franks’ unique approach to mark-making, incorporating shadow and darkness into his compositions and subject selection has led him to be awarded several high-profile prizes including the Sainsbury Scholarship in Painting, the Jerwood Painting Fellowship and the Philip T Ribbon Award.
With a typically dark colour palette and subjects related to human fears (haunted houses, for example), Franks’ work often has an air of the macabre, and “a gothic atmosphere permeates” his compositions. Franks has spoken about his mission to “filter through memories and images” and to “render the familiar strange”. In Ghost Stories (2022) a feeling of uneasiness is created in the contrast between the black books and the acidic yellow of the background.
31 x 46 cm
The artist also teaches both publicly and privately, passing on the importance of fully trusting your skills and instincts to his pupils. He has described that when he is teaching he does “not impose my artistic philosophy on the student, rather help them build their own”.
View work by Archie Franks on Artscapy here.